A Case of Self-Censorship

by Sean

(Swear words ahoy!)

We have to watch what we say in a professional environment, but how much we have to censor ourselves can vary based on who we’re dealing with. 

Case in point, my former supervisor, Louis, was like me in that he was blunt and had very little filter. Also, he was a linguist and so am I, so he understood what I do in the Voice and Diction classroom and approved. 

So, when I decided to start teaching the use of the word “fucking” as an infix, I knew he would have my back.* Students really enjoy this lesson, and it works in the class because I discuss it during discussions of word stress, which in English, is both dry and complicated. It breaks up the class and reinforces the idea that the things we’re discussing aren’t just theoretical. 

When I told Louis I was teaching this lesson, he laughed and said that it was great. 

Unfortunately, Louis passed away in 2020, and was replaced by someone else, Andy, who doesn’t really understand what I do. He has a much different view of our area and major, and, frankly, I don’t know how I fit into it. 

As a result, I’ve stopped teaching this lesson. I don’t know how Andy would react to it. Rather than deal with whatever fallout would come from a discussion of this, it was just easier to drop the lesson. 

It’s unfortunate because I think it’s a great lesson, but I don’t need the drama of dealing with someone saying that what I’m teaching isn’t worth focusing on. 

*Short form explanation: English speakers insert the word “fucking” as an intensifier – for instance “incredible” is great but “in-fucking-credible” is MORE. Inserting “fucking” into a word follows rules and is predictive. It is inserted before the primary stressed syllable of a word. For instance, the base word is “fantastic”… the correct inflected form is “fan-fucking-tastic”: it’s not fantast-fucking-ic”. Speakers of English know this without explicitly knowing the rules involved. 

2 thoughts on “A Case of Self-Censorship

  1. Tuka Al-Sahlani

    Let me preface and say my second love is linguistics, so when you teach us about what you do in class, I am always intrigued. Also, I had a poetry teacher who taught us the value of word choice by comparing and contrasting swear words. “Fuck” was the obvious winner. Here are my questions: 1. Why does your supervisor see all of your lessons? 2. You are teaching adults, so what’s the problem here?

    1. Sean Patrick Palmer Post author

      My supervisor doesn;t see all my lessons.

      I told my previous supervisoer what I was doing in case students complained to him or my dept chair so he wouldn’t be blindsided. If he knew about it, he could be prepared and put a stop to the complaints before they got to the administration, which has a history of not backing its instructors.

      Seriously, one colleague got in trouble for showing a movie with nudity in it. To adults. Who were warned. One student complained, and a whole shitstorm started.

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