Quiz: All the Words That Aren’t Fit to Print in the New York Times

Guess the swear words and R-rated phrases the Gray Lady has deemed too explicit for her readers.

No, you can't say this in the Times.Illustration by Tim Murphy

The Gray Lady has her standards, at least. For as long as anyone has kept track, the New York Times has enforced a strict policy of avoiding language it deems offensive while jumping through hoops to explain why. While cursing is permitted in excerpted works of fiction, in the paper’s news sections, f-bombs, s-words, racial slurs, and off-color terms such as “screw,” are strictly non grata. (The one exception: The 1998 publication of the NSFW Starr Report.)

No one—even Joe Biden—is exempt. In the hands of the Times copy desk, “cocksuckers” becomes “Offensive Adjective Inappropriate for Family Newspaper“; “fuck you money” is “forget you money“; and “slutbag” is euphemized as just one of “several vulgar and sexist terms” uttered by New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s spokeswoman. If—to borrow a trope that really ought to be banned—the Eskimos have 100 words for snow, the New York Times has at least 100 ways to say “fuck.” None of them use the word “fuck.”

Can you read between the lines to figure out which words the Times copy desk considered unfit to print in the quotes below? Give it your best fucking shot:


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