Why omitting ‘vulgar’ and ‘offensive’ words defeats the purpose

480a2-6a00d8341c4ec253ef00e54f05ad878833-800wiOxford Dictionaries recently embarked on a project to discover the world’s least favourite words, but publicly abandoned the project following “severe misuse” of its online survey. The decision to discontinue its #OneWordMap is understandable, due to the high volume of highly incendiary contributions intended to incite racial and religious hatred (eg. ‘Islam’, ‘Israel’).

But it seems that the survey was abandoned before it even began. The project had already banned the use of a select number of words from contributors. Dan Stewart, the head of international marketing at Oxford Dictionaries, states in The Guardian: “[we] filtered out words marked as vulgar and offensive in our dictionaries, but this wasn’t enough to prevent the misuse”. Does filtering out words not defeat the purpose of the exercise? (more…)