or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Library of Profanity

   January 8th, 2009

Bad WordsI'll warn you right up front: this post contains bad words.

While looking for a book on Amazon, I accidentally (really) found a book with the title Fuck this Book. Of course this caught my eye, so I read the description and found it actually sounded interesting (a la Postsecret, Found and Church Signs Across America).

I used the handy greasemonkey script to search my library's catalog directly from Amazon. I was surprised to see that my library had a record for the book, but it was In Cataloging - and has been for three years (there's got to be a story here, and I'm still trying to track it down [update: I asked around and learned the story, and the book has since, sadly, been deleted from our catalog]).

But this got me thinking: what other bad words are indexed in the library catalog? I ran some searches, and was surprised at the results. In my library's holdings alone, fuck has 12 matches and shit has 16 matches. I ran through a list of bad words, but most others also had non-bad meanings (pussy cat, Dick Cheney, etc).

I think it's important for libraries to provide unfiltered access to information, and not vilify a work or person because they violate a social taboos (besides, profanity is often in the eye of the beholder).

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4 Responses to “Library of Profanity”

  1. Deborah Fitchett Says:

    In a discussion elsewhere a while ago about filtering user-inputted tags for profanity and other offensive language, I posted the results of searching the University of Canterbury catalogue for each of the list of words then under discussion. Numbers below show a general keyword search with end truncation / a general keyword search without truncation / a title keyword search without truncation.

    anal 23021/7/0
    anus 31/3/0
    ass 48134/49/23
    asshole 3/1/1
    bitch 43/31/10
    clit 88/1/1
    cock 772/83/24
    cocksucker 0/0/0
    cunt 5/0/0
    fag 367/9/4
    fuck 19/12/1
    kike 10/4/3 (all Japanese)
    milf 465/0/0
    nigger 29/24/16
    penis 32/16/0
    piss 69/4/0
    shit 231/19/2
    twat 0/0/0
    whore 80/50/20
    (Note that this is only end truncation as the UC library catalogue doesn’t allow front truncation.)

  2. Mary A. Axford Says:

    If you search Worldcat (OCLC #2220952)you’ll find a record for one of my favorite journal titles:

    Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts.


  3. Liz Says:

    I’m not sure you’ll prevail in this matter, but I hope you do – and wish you luck.

  4. Ms. Yingling Says:

    In the middle school, I do watch words in books more carefully. If a student can be expelled for using the word, should it be in a book he can check out from the library? Has to be there for a good reason.