This is all about a comment to my answer in Why in Brazil "nossa!" (our) is "wow!"?.

When our questions and answers include language or swearing, should we write it in full or should we use *** ? My answer to the linked question icludes the word "porra", which isn't exactly a word I would use before people of a polite mindset, old ladies, children, etc. So I just posted "p***a" instead. Then I got a comment saying that political correctness was unnecessary and that using asterisks could be misleading. What do the mods think about this?

  • I was able to say, it depends. Depends on the type of words that we use. I think "porra" is not too rude or offensive. For example in the case of "cara**o" already seems to be too offensive and can be exchanged for "carago". Although anyone who isn't native can have some difficulty if you put the words with "***". It is a difficult question.
    – Jorge B. Mod
    Oct 12, 2015 at 8:44
  • Related: A palavra cu é ofensiva, no Brasil?
    – Jorge B. Mod
    Oct 12, 2015 at 14:40
  • 3
    On a language site, any word should be written in full. What is to be avoided is making personal comments using swear words. One thing is to explain the expression /vai tomar no cu/ and another is to actually say that to someone here. For me, that's the only rule I'd accept.
    – Lambie
    Jan 28, 2017 at 15:03
  • @Lambie I fully agree with you on "one thing is to explain the expression /vai tomar no cu/ and another is to actually say that to someone here" When I posted the question, in 2015, I just wanted to make sure most members think likewise. Do note, however, that one of the comments above says that it depends on the word.
    – Centaurus
    Jan 28, 2017 at 15:16
  • We can make offences using any kind of words, not only regular bad words. The inverse is also true, bad words aren't offensive by themselves, they need a context to offend people and a discussion about language surely doesn't have context to make them offensive, unless you want to. Can you imagine a dictionary defining (ops, censuring) words?
    – Luciano
    Aug 9, 2018 at 17:25

3 Answers 3


Political correctness needn’t enter into it. On a language site, the use–mention distinction is an important one to make. Because our discussions center around language itself, it is perfectly fine to discuss (that is, to mention) any words or phrases, even those that might be considered vulgar or offensive.

All language sites make this distinction, and do not replace such terms with bowdlerized (“starred out”) versions when they are mentioned inside a post.

On the other hand, actually using such language is not conducive to civil discourse, and is no more wanted here than on any other SE site. (But do be warned that in SE chat, some rooms may have their own somewhat looser standards for public discourse.)

So gratuitous uses of language that risk offending will probably be edited out, especially if flagged as offensive. It doesn’t matter whether they’re offensive because they’re perceived as being expressions that are obscene, vulgar, profane, sacrilegious, or any number of other reasons. We have no need to actually use such language to communicate in our questions and answers.

However, we are perfectly free to discuss these terms, so mentioning them is fine, whether directly or in quotations. That doesn’t mean that folks should go adding deliberately “colorful” terms to their quotations to make people notice them better. :)

The one exception to this is in titles. On English-language sites, “curse words” and other potentially offensive terms are not left intact in titles, but are lightly bowdlerized with stars or dashes. This is both so that they don’t draw unnatural attention if they hit the Hot Network Questions list, and also because certain parental-monitoring software may count words in titles more heavily and end up blacklisting all of Stack Exchange just because someone left a legitimately mentioned term in a title that such “nannyware” would take exception to.

This is all a network-wide SE policy.

I don’t know whether the policy of bowdlerizing titles extends to other languages than English. We might as well play it safe for now, but if the community would like clarification from the powers that be about whether it includes Portuguese title words, too, we can check into it.


tl;dr - use whatever you prefer; but I think clarity and straight-forwardness are preferable to political correctness.

My opinion more often counters political correctness than it favours it.

In this particular case, I think it is detrimental to the answer, because:

  1. If the reader knows the word, covering it with asterisks achieves only politeness;
  2. If the reader does not know which word is meant, covering it prevents the user from knowing it, being almost the same as not including the word at all.

I think that in both cases the intended effect ("this expression should not be used") is better achieved by explicitly labelling it as offensive and vulgar, perhaps like this:

  • In ptBR there are quite a few informal or slang words expressing the same as "nossa": "caramba", the vulgar expression "porra", "Deus do céu", "minha nossa", "Nossa Senhora", etc.;
  • Or as an aside - (...) "caramba", "porra" (vulgar, avoid using it), "Deus do céu" (...).

In my opinion it's not the word that is dirty and vulgar, but its use.

While I understand that we cannot use a loaded word without dragging into context its loaded meaning... I also believe that we can mention a word "academically" without condoning or criticizing its use.
Let's do an allegory: is the narration of atrocities, by historians or journalists, necessarily an atrocity? I defend that it is not.

Now, my answers are mine and your answers are yours. I prefer that each of us answers as he feels comfortable.

  • ANeves, I have nothing against your comment. As a matter-of-fact I agree that in a site where people come to teach and learn, clarity is essential, and I appreciate your advice. I just don't know whether there is a policy set by SE concerning posting vulgar terms. And I prefer being told that I don't have to be so cautious to being told that I have been offensive to most ears. Let's hear what the mods have to say about it.
    – Centaurus
    Oct 10, 2015 at 1:29
  • 1
    I understand; that's a healthy approach. And sorry for being so... contrarian, but I think the question you asked is for the community, not the mods. No offense meant! Thanks for being such a solid member of the community. :)
    – ANeves
    Oct 10, 2015 at 14:36

Update (after almost two years):
Well, actually, swear words can be used with no problem if the intention is to enrich the answer, like, for example, when listing synonyms. But using them when there's simply no reason at all is plain unnecessary and in my opinion should be avoided.

Well, I'm not a mod, so I don't know if my opinion would change anything, and some (or maybe many) will disagree with my opinion. But, even though, here's my counter-argument about this matter.

In most cases the use/mention of such words is unnecessary.

Let's take as example some of the questions in which an/some answer(s) used some "unpolite" words:

  1. Diferença entre e uso de “Boa!” e “Bom!” como interjeições
  2. Why in Brazil “nossa!” (our) is “wow!”?
  3. “Ao mandar o Bernardo às compras…” Is this an idiom?
  4. Does “rapariga” have a pejorative connotation in ptPT?
  5. Equivalentes em português para a expressão “Bitchy resting face”
  6. Is it offensive to call a little boy a “putinho” in Portugal?
  7. Existe em português um equivalente a “freaking awesome”?
  8. How to use “zuar”?

Out of these 8 questions, in 5 of them (1, 2, 4, 5 and 8) the use/mention of vulgar language in the answer is unnecessary. I explain why.

In the first, the noun used in the quote could perfectly be replaced for another more adequate word and the answer's information would still remain intact.

In the second, the use of the word that was censored is both unnecessary and misleading, because there are two vulgar words that starts with a "p" and ends with an "a", and I wouldn't know which of them is referred to if I didn't read it here in this meta question. So instead of censoring it, I think it would be better to just remove it, as the answer is totally clear even before that part.

In number 4, the OP just asked if in Portugal "rapariga" is pejorative, but this answer also includes more vulgar synonyms, which weren't asked and the answer would also keep intact without it.

In number 5, although it is said that in Portugal this word is considered less vulgar than in Brazil, it would be better if used another, more "universal" word, like "bunda", or at least clarify in some way that the usage of this word is different in Portugal, so that people from other countries (mainly Brazil), could know why it was used, or linking to another question or text that explains the differences in usage and meaning, etc.

And in number 8, it's made in the answer a reference to a meme in which its name contains a vulgar expletive. It's just a reference, the answer wouldn't change without it, it's not the answer's core. So if the author really wants to cite it, it would be more proper to censor, especially because it follows a link to a page about it, so there's no need to be completely spelled.

The only one that would not be necessary to be censored or anything, is number 3, in which the word is not depreciative, in context, because in Portugal it has a completely different meaning. But in the answer there should be any way to tell for those who don't know that it just mean "kid/boy", like linking to a question or another source about this (as I did), or maybe use "menino" or "moço" instead.

And the feminine form in number 6 is necessary. Why? Although the question is about the masculine form, including the feminine form is important to prevent misleading people by making them think that the feminine form has the same meaning as the masculine. Also it is directly related to the question.

But the answers in number 7 are between unnecessary and necessary. The question asks about a Portuguese equivalent to "freaking awesome". "Freaking" is an euphemism. Euphemisms are intended to avoid using "unpleasant" words. However, out of 3 answers, only one suggested some non-vulgar alternatives, while the others suggested as many coarse words as they could.


I suggest we avoid using strong/vulgar/swearing language, unless the question is about or directly related to those words. If swearing have to be there, but is not necessary for the answer's clarification, I suggest it should be censored (with "***", or whatever other way). If the reader does not know the word, they will find it again in another place (swear words are never difficult to come across).

Note: I have no intention of "offending" the authors of these answers, I just used their answers as examples, but with no relation to who wrote them.

  • 2
    [No offence taken. If we can't disagree, we won't improve! :)] Bunda is not universal, although it is universally understood. I did not know "cu" is offensive in Brasil, I'm going to open a question about that. In Portugal cu is informal but not offensive, e.g. "tens as calças sujas no cú", and "o miúdo caiu de cú"; but it can be used in an offensive way, of course.
    – ANeves
    Oct 12, 2015 at 10:53
  • 1
    Bunda is not offensive either. The point is to avoid personal comments, not to avoid using swear words per se.
    – Lambie
    Jan 28, 2017 at 15:00
  • @Lambie I know, but that's what I meant with "using a more universal word, like bunda". "Bunda" is not offensive, but "cu" in Brazil is.
    – Yuuza
    May 28, 2017 at 4:06

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