While the civilized world continues to reel from the NYT's decision to ban the use of the word "tweet," the newspaper still maintains its antiquated ban on the word "shit" -- even when used by a high-ranking government official to describe a previous President.
In yesterday's magazine cover story, "Democrat in Chief?" by Matt Bai, White House chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel used the expletive "shit sandwich" in describing the Bush administration's inheritance gift to the incoming Democrats. But Bai took it out, and replaced it with this convoluted joke:
As Rahm Emanuel told me when we sat down in April, “The American people know overwhelmingly that he inherited a” — and here Emanuel used a word I can’t repeat — “sandwich.” (Suffice it to say the sandwich wasn’t pastrami.) “They know that. They don’t need to be educated. I believe it’s worth reminding them of the scale, size and scope of the” — that word again — “sandwich we got."
It's worth noting that the NYT has used the word "shit" four times since 1981, presumably with the prior approval of the good-taste police. In 2007 it turned up in a quote from a Michael Lewis story on field-goal kickers; the year before, Tom Friedman slipped it into a column as a quote from the sandwich-maker-in-chief himelf, George W. Bush:
George Bush and Condi Rice need to realize that Syria on its own is not going to press Hezbollah — in Mr. Bush’s immortal words — to just “stop doing this shit.’’
How does Bush get permission to say "shit" in reference to Hezbollah, but Emanuel can't use it to describe Bush? Maybe it's time for NYT editors to lighten up on curse words, and let them through when no other word will do. Unlike tweet, shit's here to stay. These ludicrous efforts to keeep cursing out of the NYT only call attention to the words -- and to the fact of the NYT's prudish attitude toward language most of us use every day.