I always wanted to ask for a translation of the (very common in Australia) phrase:

"If you throw enough shit against a wall, some of it has gotta stick."

It describes research in mathematics quite well, in my opinion. However in Australia the swear word is far from offesnive; here, I don't think that's the case.

My question here for meta is, do we allow curse words (like shit), and would I be able to use it in the title of my question? How do people feel about this?

Edit: I have asked the question here.

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    I must have missed the latest development in mathematics. When I studied we didn't have computers to help to use this approch
    – bernd_k
    Commented May 27, 2011 at 13:28

4 Answers 4


I think a good idea is to look at corresponding discussions on meta.elu.se:

I think we definitely should have the possibility to discuss such matters. Especially because a lot of those words are acceptable when talking with children, with peers of the same age group or in general in a limited scope. For example:

  • The word Kacke is often used when speaking with or about small children when the context is not too formal ("Oh, der kleine hat wieder eingekackt."). It's still very rude in most other contexts.
  • Hundescheiße and Vogelscheiße is very common (although Hundekot is of couse more sensible).
  • When young people are conversing in a playful manner, terms like Du Arsch or Du spinnst ja are alright. The same applies to many all-men groups.

So yeah. It's a fine line one has to walk when it comes to topics like that and this is all the reason we need to allow that.

In light of Takkat's quite restrictive approach I want to provide a use case: A non native speaker hears some swear word he or she previously thought of as offending and is now unsure whether to use the word or not and if yes, when. Of course, the best approach is listen and learn. Still, the worst outcome would be to use the word in wrong situations. Having a place to ask about the tone of a word in certain situations in my opinion is very desirable.

I think a good middle ground to not offending anyone would be to "censor" swear words in question titles whenever possible at best by choosing a sensitive phrasing and avoiding Asterisks (like in sh**).

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    Just to have said it: I am not so restrictive in my private mind - in fact I do swear a lot on bad days. +1 for avoiding asterisks, they won't work anyway in a foreign language. Sensitive phrasing may be wise. Or great tolerance for exceptions ;)
    – Takkat
    Commented May 27, 2011 at 11:28
  • For my particular example, the word 'shit' is fundamental--without it, it is not the same expression, and may be misunderstood (by an Australian). Should I try and post it as a question, and see what happens (not what I wanted to do), or wait for more people to weigh in here on meta? Commented May 27, 2011 at 12:38
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    @Glen: go ahead and post. You sure can expect bonus points (quite literally) if you manage to come up with a descriptive title without actually mentioning any offensive words, but in any case, don't needlessly censor the body. Arguably, we need a canonical question about an offensive term as soon as possible, so the community gets used to seeing such questions and handling them in an academic manner before we even go out of private beta.
    – RegDwight
    Commented May 27, 2011 at 17:53
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    @RegDwight I've asked the question. (Edited in above.) I couldn't think of any good way to obfuscate the swear word in the title without also compromising its usefulness. I hope I made it clear that although the phrase contains a swear word, it is not in any way offensive. Commented May 28, 2011 at 18:35

The discussion of no words, however offensive, should be prohibited on a site discussing language.

However in the knowledge that this site is likely be used by students in schools and in other environments where such language would not be appreciated, at least the more obscene words should not be used in question titles out of courtesy. If a question title can't be reworded to avoid the word without being pointlessly vague, it should be asterisked.

For a plain translation question such as yours, "Equivalent of Australian vulgar idiom" would be a ridiculous title, so "Equivalent of 'If you throw enough s*** against a wall, some of it has gotta stick'" is fine.

No censorship or asterisks should be used at all within the question and answers themselves.

I'd also favour use of an NSFW tag.

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    I'd hate to see **** in question titles. Certainly don't vulgarity in your speech, but in talking about vulgarities, they have to be mentioned - even more so in the title, as it should be as descriptive of the content as possible. Everything else would be ludicrous. Commented May 27, 2011 at 15:52
  • Do not use an abbreviation like "NSFW" which is not understood by everyone.
    – Phira
    Commented May 29, 2011 at 22:48

Warum soll große Scheiße die irgendein Manager z.B. in Fokushima gebaut hat, nicht einfach als solche bezeichnen?

Im deutschen ist das nicht anstößig, sondern schlicht zutreffend.

  • Ganz abhängig vom Kontext mag es als anstößig empfunden werden oder nicht. In den meisten Kreisen in denen ich verkehre geht man sehr sparsam mit Kraftausdrücken um. Wenn das "Scheiße" im ersten Satz nicht blos als Beispiel, sondern als ernste Fragen gelten soll: Weil es nur abwertend ist, ohne zu spezifizieren, was Deinen Unmut nun genau erregt hat. In vielen Zusammenhängen drückt man sein Misfallen nicht mit Schimpfworten aus, sondern verbalisiert und differenziert. Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 2:27

We sure don't want to offense anybody. Therefore we need to consider that:

  • Sensitivity levels are different.

  • We would need to define which swear-word is tolerated and which is really bad and must be blocked. This would be an impossible task.

  • Many people may have installed filters that block whole websites in case of offensive language. We sure wouldn't want that to happen.

  • An otherwise harmless word may become very offensive when translated.

So much as I would love to have a place where we could also discuss these topics so much do I fear that we might fail there.

I therefore vote to restrict usage of possibly offending language. However we could define few exceptions for that rule, if needed.

  • ad 3) I'm not installing blocking/filtering software. If somebody does, it isn't my job to improve his success, in that I do it for him. ad 4) Do you have an example? Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 2:30

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