In a formal paper, should I censor "brainf**k", the name of a programming language?



I'm working on a formal paper about programming languages. I am going to talk about two intentionally difficult languages, brainfuck and JSFuck. Should I leave the names as they are, or censor the names? (e.g. brainf**k, JSF**k)


Posted 2016-05-02T06:09:33.480


187@vickyace No, brain means nothing in programming languages, and js refers to another language entirely. – deadrat – 2016-05-02T06:42:27.370

68Unless this is the first paper on that programming language in that publication, you should have precedence to draw on. Failing that, ask the editor. – None – 2016-05-02T06:44:03.500

11This really isn't a question about English usage, but about decorum. If you're writing a formal paper, presumably in an academic institution or for an academic publication, and I'd expect such an institution or publication to want the facts reported as they are. But ask your advisor or editor how they want the names reported. – deadrat – 2016-05-02T06:47:33.987

You need to be clear about whether this is a journal paper, in which case ask the editor (similarly for trade publications) or an internal paper, in which case it's a matter for internal guidelines. As a very broad assumption, gratuitous use of swear words is bad form at best, but it's bad form to change someone else's wording. – Chris H – 2016-05-02T07:19:18.570


(This was going to be an answer but I realized that the question is not about the English language) If you are writing about these two languages you have to provide their full names. You were not the creator of the said languages nor of their trademarks: Brainfuck and JSFuck. The readers of your paper will probably be very familiar with these programmes and should not think any less of you. If the rest of the paper is professional-looking, it will be clear you are not acting churlishly.

– Mari-Lou A – 2016-05-02T08:34:12.510

12Unless you need those particular languages, you could just use the generic term like "Turing Tarpit" or "Esoteric Languages" – Yet Another Geek – 2016-05-02T12:13:13.980

7A quick Web of Science search returns no (zero, nada, zip) hits for Brainfuck in Title or Topic. Somewhat odd, frankly. On the other hand, since the language is almost an inside joke it is unlikely that much serious research is performed using it. – Jon Custer – 2016-05-02T14:27:46.207

1You might just want to add a small warning at the start of your paper about harsh language, like some TV or radio shows do. – David Grinberg – 2016-05-02T14:39:19.660


just as an interesting reference, there is an article out there which manages to include the word "bullshit" 56 times:

– vsz – 2016-05-02T15:18:22.943

1One interesting thing is that the censorship has basically become part of the name (at least a common variant of the name). – PyRulez – 2016-05-02T19:22:04.213


A lot of comment on the matter in this old Meta StackExchange question.

– dmckee – 2016-05-02T23:23:54.227

6Why are the names censored in the title of this question? – RockPaperLizard – 2016-05-03T08:12:00.390


@RockPaperLizard This Meta.SE answer from Shog9 will answer that question. "Brainfuck" (or any other profanity) is not allowed in question titles.

– Mego – 2016-05-03T08:15:53.887

10Censor JS please. It's terrible. – Bald Bantha – 2016-05-03T15:15:08.283


For what it's worth there are 97 search results for '"brainfuck" programming language' on google scholar, but only 4 results for '"brainf--k" programming language'.

– dbc – 2016-05-03T20:18:52.377

1Is there some reason that you cannot rename the languages, and on the first instance of the new name, provide a citation going to your endnotes stating the real name of the language and the reason that you gave them new names in your paper? – Noctis Skytower – 2016-05-06T16:08:43.070

2Why not forget frainbuck and JSuck and write about a language that's truly difficult instead (e.g., Malbolge). Brainfuck is mostly just a minimal assembly language with a strange (non-mnemonic) rendering of its instructions. – Jerry Coffin – 2016-05-06T18:04:27.647


I don't know for the English speaking world, but the German translation of the F-word is a regular (though rare) family name. I have yet to see a physics text that only speaks of F###'s law of diffusion. I'd say the same applies to the proper names of these two programming languages.

– Hagen von Eitzen – 2016-05-07T16:07:40.493

The key issues here are context and audience. The word "fuck" is now nothing more than a harsh expletive, empty of explicit meaning except when used to denote the sex act (English provides no 'decent' transitive verb for that). A similar kind of shift in meaning is seen in the disparity between current usage of the word 'bloody'--immensely popular in English and Canadian usage--and its origin as 'God's blood', from Christ's side on the cross. Our harsh word is not yet at total disconnect from its roots,, like 'bloody', but it's on its way. Industry accepts these two names. Use them. – clark – 2016-05-08T19:47:00.693

A word's meaning depends highly of its context. In your context [programming langage, and publication about it], it has no offensive meaning whatsoever, and therefore I can't see why it would need to be censored – Olivier Dulac – 2016-05-10T09:20:30.300



These are the Registered names of sanctioned programs in your industry. Their developers chose those names not for their prurient value but for their impact value. "Brainfuck" sends an INSTANT message that something like "Cerebral Challenge" could never pull off. You show your professionalism when you structure the "Brainfuck" section of your paper with the same care you show in other sections, mentioning the singularity of its name only if it's relevant to the paper. Let 'them' come to you, if they feel they must (and I doubt it). Your responsibility is to the quality--which includes the Integrity-- of your paper.


Posted 2016-05-02T06:09:33.480

Reputation: 1 243

53I really like your thoughtfulness... but it's unclear what you are advocating. Who is "them" who "come to you" and what does it mean for them to "come to you?" – Matt – 2016-05-02T14:09:02.447

39Registered, as in, having a trademark? I don't think so. Sanctioned? By whom? – svick – 2016-05-02T14:12:17.630

8@Matt Seemed pretty obvious: anyone with an issue (editors, reviewers, advisors) – Insane – 2016-05-03T04:49:17.600

9"Registered" simply means people in the industry will know what you are talking about, and not think you are swearing. However, the advice is to use it once, and avoid repeating it like a child saying "poop". – Nelson – 2016-05-03T06:28:55.003

4@Matt Mia: "Who told you this?" Vincent: "They." Mia: "They talk a lot don't they..." Vincent:* "They certainly do." – corsiKa – 2016-05-03T23:16:40.057

1Are the sanctions multilateral? Seriously, avoid auto-antonyms in answers. Unless you're trying to be ambiguous. – Ben Voigt – 2016-05-04T03:06:59.060

1@corsiKa I'm not sure what to think about that...

I see two interpretations of your answer. One is, "structure your paper with care" means, don't make unnecessary concessions, use the words that are relevant to your research and if someone dislikes the names of these programs, let them bring it up with you.

The other is, "structure your paper with care" means don't be unnecessarily inflammatory, use acronyms and shorthand the same way you would with other terminology, and if someone thinks that your acronyms constitute censorship, let them bring it up with you.

Do you see my confusion? – Matt – 2016-05-04T13:07:16.410

It's also important to clarify who "they" is and what "come to you" means. There are some "they" that are a random guy on the street whose opinion has no impact on your project. Him "coming to you" is little more than an interesting conversation about censorship in research. There are other "they" that are deciding how well or poorly your research is accepted... and that "they" can "come to you" by instructing you to spend extra time restructuring your paper... maybe your project. And every "they" in between. Some "they" have impact, others don't. Clarifying who those "they" are matters. – Matt – 2016-05-04T13:12:35.083

2I think this is a good answer but svick is right. It's really dubious and borderline fraudulent (although I think you were just saying this to exaggerate) to make up a sanctioning body within the industry to make your point. – None – 2016-05-04T19:26:35.690

2Just wanted to give a +1 for being the only answer to consider the integrity of the paper. It's not censorship, it's changing the name of the tool in question-- if someone published a language literally called "Brainf@@k" the OP's paper would very explicitly be referring to the wrong tool. Modifying test results in a lab because they yielded the letter sequence F, U, C, K, the number 666 or the acronym SATAN would be no less unethical/invalidating. Citing a swear word in an essay might have gotten you in trouble in third grade but academics are supposed to handle that maturely. – Ivan – 2016-05-06T20:37:52.803

I think you have a duty to use the correct names for these languages. Please do not self-censor. The more people do that, the less room there will be to manoeuvre for the others. By self-censoring you are basically taking a stand pro-censorship as it is clearly helpful to the anti-free speech people and hurtful to the pro free speechers. However by not censoring you are not taking a position. Not everyone needs to take a stand in Political Correctness, but academica should protect their own freedoms to write about what they want to write about without being censored, even by themselves. – Stijn de Witt – 2016-05-09T19:09:51.857

I am not upvoting this answer because I share Matt and svick's objections – Stella Biderman – 2018-01-29T20:22:11.327


I would suggest leaving the names as they are and letting the editor(s) deal with it. If the editor (or journal policy) has an issue, they will tell you what to do. If you have a personal issue with the names, then you probably would have been better served by not using the languages.


Posted 2016-05-02T06:09:33.480

Reputation: 74 063

7OK, but last point is dubious. It's fortunate even more vulgar/sexist/what-have-you words were not chosen for what has become an objectively important language. – None – 2016-05-04T03:40:28.280

12@djechlin I am not sure what you mean. If you have personal objections to animal testing, it is probably better not to do research that is best done with animal testing. If you have personal objections against a particular language (e.g., due to its name), it is better not to ask questions that require that language to be used. – StrongBad – 2016-05-04T18:35:06.457

4@StrongBad I think what he means is, sometimes you just can't ignore a language because it is interesting for other theoretical reasons. E.g. if Turing Machine had a vulgar name, CS professors would still find the concept useful, and would need to refer to it somehow; changing the name is generally not an option once it is widely accepted. – Mario Carneiro – 2016-05-06T12:01:38.793

@StrongBad The situations are incomparable, since you could here research a totally different language (without any potential personal/ethical issues) but still need to refer to this one in order to e.g. avoid plagiarism or not miss an important reference. – Yet Another Geek – 2016-05-07T18:31:00.147

1Just shows how idiotic PC has become... Just not using a language (even though it may be the best option) because it's name is offensive... Funny thing is I never really see the people that think it's so offensive. Mostly it's normal people censoring to avoid others from possibly taking offence... I would like to know who these supposed people are and how they survive the internet if just the word Fuck offends them? Anyway I agree with your answer. And would be most surprised if the editors would actually have a problem. – Stijn de Witt – 2016-05-09T19:16:08.157

1@MarioCarneiro au contraire. Turing machines originally had a bad (not vulgar but that doesn't matter) name: Turing called them "A-machines". Because they're so important, they were renamed. The fact that brainfuck still has its inappropriate name is evidence of how completely unimportant it is. – David Richerby – 2016-05-14T23:57:06.093

@DavidRicherby Of course Turing didn't call them Turing machines, most mathematicians are not so vain as to name things after themselves. Also "A-machine" is not even a proper name intended for general use, but only a distinguishing title to separate from "B-machines" (which IIRC are now called interactive Turing machines). Once a name enters the general lexicon (which I claim has already occurred for brainfuck), it very rarely changes again. ... – Mario Carneiro – 2016-05-15T16:55:16.227

... Furthermore, brainfuck was introduced as a programming language, not a mathematical structure, and these seem to retain their original names. I can't think of a single language whose original name was "replaced by society", even if it is terrible. – Mario Carneiro – 2016-05-15T17:01:46.587


Swearing in the paper is improper, citing swearwords is not. How would ethymologists write their papers if they weren't allowed to use all the words they talk about?

Here is a thesis with fuck in it, and its use is totally legitimate.

Dmitry Grigoryev

Posted 2016-05-02T06:09:33.480

Reputation: 3 148

4It seems that its author taught me English. The world is small :-) – yo' – 2016-05-02T18:53:08.547

11Actually, the thesis you refer to explicitly mentions "fuck" as problematic and an "especially offensive" word, and has decided to censor his own usage of it but keeps the uncensored version in citations. – pipe – 2016-05-03T01:10:30.517

It would also be inappropriate for etymologists to include long sections of code in their paper instead of referring the reader elsewhere. – None – 2016-05-04T03:40:55.937

Here is a thesis with fuck in it - perhaps unsurprisingly the thesis is entitled: Usage and origin of expletives in British English – Nick Gammon – 2016-05-10T05:57:23.397


Name the programming languages in the abstract, and use initialisms like BF and JSF thereafter:

Abstract: The two languages under consideration are Brainfuck (BF) and JSFuck (JSF), both of which are yadda yadda yadda... The results show that some tasks are performed faster using BF than JSF, while other tasks are handled equally well.


Introduction: We set up two computer clusters, executing the latest version of BF on one and JSF on the other. We compiled JSF from source code hosted on the developer's website using an Intel 4004...

In this way, you are referring to the language names professionally and consistently, but have no need to plaster your paper with instances of *fuck or BrainF#@%.

† You have precedence since other terms in programming are commonly referred to by initialisms in this way, e.g., RoR and JS, for readability.


Posted 2016-05-02T06:09:33.480

Reputation: 2 796

21JSF stands for JavaServer Faces -- another programming framework. I don't think you could redefine it here. – Ébe Isaac – 2016-05-02T14:19:49.910

2RoR is a framework, not a language. The only language I can think of which is commonly known by an initialism is JS, and even there the full javascript is more common. (I'm not counting PHP, as there the initialism is the name.) – TRiG – 2016-05-02T15:05:18.090

2@ÉbeIsaac, The initalism I used was a suggestion. JsF, JSFu, or any of a myriad of others would work equally well. – user1717828 – 2016-05-02T15:15:16.663


@TRiG - Really? LOTS of languages are known by their initials. Technically C (and thus its derivatives C++, C#, Objective C, etc.) is an initialism, being originally part of BCPL. If you want one that's more well-known as being an acronym, there's always AS3 (ActionScript 3). COBOL is an acronym, as is BASIC. I would guess that there are more languages with acronyms for names than without. This list for example looks like a pile of alphabet soup.

– Darrel Hoffman – 2016-05-02T15:18:20.897

2I'd put them in the same category as PHP, @DarrelHoffman: the initialism is the name. – TRiG – 2016-05-02T15:21:18.400

1@ÉbeIsaac, Ugh. I made it more technically correct for you. Also, recall Visual Basic (VB), assembly language (asm), ECMAScript (ES), PostScript(PS) are all commonly referred to by initalisms. Darrel Hoffman already linked you to a list chock-full of languages that mainly go by their acronyms. – user1717828 – 2016-05-02T15:26:36.050

79@ÉbeIsaac JSF also stands for "Joint Strike Fighter" - so what? As long as the author defines the acronym explicitly then you can pretty much use it for whatever you want within the given scope of the paper. This happens all the time; there is no shortage of usage overlap for common acronym combinations. – J... – 2016-05-02T16:55:10.480

14@J... : I've mentioned that JSF is already an existing abbreviation within the programming languages field and hence it would be inappropriate to redefine it to something else in the same domain. – Ébe Isaac – 2016-05-02T17:23:18.063

37@ÉbeIsaac I would consider that a valid argument if and only if the paper in question also needed to refer to JavaServer Faces. If it did not, then acronym re-use is entirely acceptable (as long as explicitly defined by the author), even if there is overlap in a similar field or topic. – J... – 2016-05-02T17:30:52.867

@TRiG JAVA is more commonly known by its initialism than by its full name - Just Another Vague Acronym. – emory – 2016-05-02T17:48:12.390

3@emory Did you mean JAVA: Archaic Verbose Acronym? – cat – 2016-05-03T01:28:37.110

@TRiG Is Pre-HypertextProcessor's real name actually PHP? I thought it was HypertextPreProcessor, or maybe HypertextProcessorPre... is it noun_verb or verb_noun anyways? (answer: both) – cat – 2016-05-03T01:31:05.650

4@cat. It was originally Personal Home Page, meaning that "PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor" is a recursive backronym. ;) (So too is "YAML Ain't a Markup Language": it was originally "Yet Another Markup Language", till someone pointed out that it actually isn't.) – TRiG – 2016-05-03T01:36:31.120


@TRiG Oh yeah, I keep forgetting it used to be Personal Home Page. Ah, well, I'm just happy I've never had to work with that monstrosity :P

– cat – 2016-05-03T01:41:22.467

7@ÉbeIsaac Me being a person from Codegolf.SE (hi), I use BF and JSF all the time without ambiguity of context. Chances are, anyone who knows about JavaServer Faces will pick up on the fact that JSF is not their Face server. – Conor O'Brien – 2016-05-03T01:48:49.170

6@ÉbeIsaac In physics, math and many other sciences there is humongous ammount of meanings for E, a, etc. Even if you add superscripts, subscripts,... Sometimes the latin and greek alphabet are not enough and one must use hebrew symbols. And nobody cares. If you clearly distinguish JSFuck from Java Server Faces there's absolutely no doubt. You can help by referring Jsf and JSF. – Crowley – 2016-05-03T14:25:10.840

@emory Not sure if you're joking, but Java isn't an initialism. – chrylis – 2016-05-03T23:59:01.947

Please take extended discussion to [chat]. – eykanal – 2016-05-10T01:50:34.180


As a linguist, I'd like to point out that using the word fuck is very different from using the name Brainfuck.

The name Brainfuck has a unique referent: it refers only to the programming language of that name. The word fuck does not have such a unique reference – it can be used to refer to all sorts of things, and while the associated concept may be considered to be a rather integral part of human existence, the connotations of that word make it inappropriate for formal discourse for many, if not most speakers.

The crucial point is, however, that there is no conceptual overlap between the two. Brainfuck, when used as the name of a programming language, means something totally different from fuck, and there is no overlap whatsoever in the potential sets of referents of the two words. At the same time, it is of course possible to use the word brainfuck with a meaning that is related more to fuck than to Brainfuck, as in Stop trying to brainfuck me. Here, the speaker is clearly evoking the meaning of fucking, and not the meaning of "a programming language that is intentionally so strange that it brainfucks its users".

So, as an answer to your question: use by all means exactly those linguistic expressions that their inventors chose as names for their programming languages. The -fuck in Brainfuck does not mean fuck. Therefore, there is no need to censor it.

This is, unless the editor of the journal you're submitting your paper to explicitly refuses to publish it while the letter sequences fuck occur in the names.


Posted 2016-05-02T06:09:33.480

Reputation: 1 489

29“The -fuck in Brainfuck does not mean fuck. Therefore, there is no need to censor it.” This isn’t how either academia or linguistic taboos work, though. On the one hand, most people who consider fuck unacceptable will also consider compounds of it it unacceptable, whatever their meaning (unless they’re independently established as less taboo). Conversely, the academic argument for it is just a matter of accuracy to the facts: if you write a critical analysis of Larkin’s This be the verse, then the fuck in the first line really means fuck, but you’d still quote it as such. – PLL – 2016-05-02T20:34:22.033

8@PLL cf. the Scunthorpe problem. – OrangeDog – 2016-05-03T11:09:29.207

3Brainfuck absolutely is used to refer to things beyond this programming language. Cf. Wiktionary article on the word. – KRyan – 2016-05-03T14:10:42.097

2Brainfuck is named that specifically in reference to mess-up meaning of fuck--the idea being that it fucks with your brain. This there most certainly is a conceptual overlap. This isn't inadvertent profanity like the Scunthorpe problem. – Loren Pechtel – 2016-05-05T02:58:36.637

3I disagree with your analysis. The name is a known vulgarism. It is a compound word in which the meaning of the vulgar component is integral to the meaning of the whole. – DavidC – 2016-05-05T16:49:15.543

1To add to what @PLL said, I had a colleague in grad school whose native language was Greek and who found the English compound "polygamy" offensive. ;-) Being offensive wasn't a problem to him, though. – R.. – 2016-05-05T21:01:30.707

And OP is writing an academic paper about a language called brainfuck... So maybe it's just me but it seems he has a choice between science and rationality on the one hand and political ideology and self-censorship on the other hand. The choice should be simple. "unless the editor of the journal you're submitting your paper to explicitly refuses to publish it " .. in which case of course we toss any integrity out the window and just write what they want us to write... – Stijn de Witt – 2016-05-09T19:29:08.447


Depends on your audience. If you're publishing at U. C. Berkeley they may hang you out for giving in to censorship. If you're at BYU they might expel you for an honor code violation if you don't censor. On the other hand someone at Berkeley may decide that sexualizing a programming language is offensive and demeaning to women.

The very nature of a controversy is that there is no clear answer that is guaranteed to make everyone happy. However, discretion can diffuse a lot of tension. If you want to avoid f**k censorship you could simply leave the names of the languages out of the papers title so they don't appear in large print.

That said, I'm proud that even growing up in a small conservative town I could still find these words defined in the school library's dictionary.


Posted 2016-05-02T06:09:33.480

Reputation: 620

9Are these really the standards in Berkeley and BYU? – None – 2016-05-02T06:54:31.787

4@WillHunting I'm using them as examples at either end of the political spectrum. Both have the sensitivities of their culture to account to. Protests have been held at both schools over smaller things. The point is to know your audience. Ignoring something your audience is sensitive to is a good way to have them ignore the rest of your message. – CandiedOrange – 2016-05-02T08:10:28.470

26-1 Do you have any evidence for either of your examples? – StrongBad – 2016-05-02T12:46:25.223

1@Strongbad the evidence of the potential issue is in the links I provided. Are you asking me to quote them? – CandiedOrange – 2016-05-02T12:51:48.563

21No, I can read what the policies say. What I am interested in is evidence that supports your interpretation of the policy. – StrongBad – 2016-05-02T12:55:14.567


@Strongbad I don't want to pick on any one school so here's a story from LSU about a tenured professor getting fired for swearing.

– CandiedOrange – 2016-05-02T13:26:03.790

See,_his_son_and_the_donkey To avoid giving in to censorship one way or the other make up your mind whether you wish to write the word or not, and stick to it.

– gnasher729 – 2016-05-02T14:36:47.380


@Gnasher Did you mean this?

– CandiedOrange – 2016-05-02T15:16:33.143

4@CandiedOrange, Regarding the LSU story. It sounds bad, but something tells me there is more to the story. "Additionally, she was asked not to return to more than one elementary school in the Baton Rouge area within the last three years because of her inappropriate behavior." In any case, regarding UC Berkeley, don't confuse their computer science department with their liberal arts departments. There is a clear cultural academic divide between them. – Stephan Branczyk – 2016-05-02T15:32:31.423

@stephanbranczyk It's rare for anyone to be fired for just one reason. If you'll recall my point was that it's wise to know your audiance. I think I've provided evidence that the trouble swearing can cause at least rises to the level of being potentially distracting. – CandiedOrange – 2016-05-02T18:50:11.997

@CandiedOrange, I agree completely, but I'd also like to point out a comment made by John Russell at the bottom of the following page. Now, I don't know if his comment is true, so that's why I am not repeating what he said here, for all I know he could just be a troll, but if it is, that would be one reason not to jump to conclusions about LSU's action.

– Stephan Branczyk – 2016-05-02T20:24:48.887

@StephanBranczyk I've read, scrolled, searched, and googled and I can't find John Russell on this page or any page mentioning LSU, him, and this issue. Did they delete the troll? – CandiedOrange – 2016-05-02T22:24:24.433

@CandiedOrange, It's a facebook comment. it loads 5 seconds after the page loads. Not sure if you need a facebook account to see it, but may be you do. – Stephan Branczyk – 2016-05-02T23:39:27.323

1the examples given, i think, are reasonable in that the reader would understand the intent of the writer, even if, say, BYU does not actually have a policy like that. the intended meaning is what matters, and candiedorange did a good job here. pedants need not weigh in. – sgroves – 2016-05-02T23:50:35.463

@CandiedOrange : My problem with the comment is that it doesn't identify which of John Russell's comments is being referred to (the "Nov 30, 2015 4:57am one", or the "Jul 5, 2015 5:41am" edit of the comment made one minute earlier). I'm not sure why you see neither. – TOOGAM – 2016-05-03T13:25:41.477

@toogam likely because I'm not on facebook – CandiedOrange – 2016-05-03T14:45:24.690

4@sgroves: On, you shouldn't post misinformation about the policies of academic institutions, even if that misinformation is incidental to the point you're actually trying to make. In this case, CandiedOrange could accomplish the same purpose by saying "a very liberal school" and "a very conservative school", rather than making false claims about specific institutions. – ruakh – 2016-05-04T00:14:24.680

@ruakh Your right, I could do that. but then people would insist that I cite policies and I'm back to naming schools. You might note the claims are qualified with may. Any school with a "clean language" or "sexual harassment" policy MAY receive complaints and MAY choose to act on them. Even if this had never happened the claim that this can distract from your point has been firmly established since the only protection you have is prosecutorial discretion. 1st amendment only protects you from the government. Not prudes in academia. – CandiedOrange – 2016-05-04T00:28:31.490

@ruakh if you wish to dispute claims of possible outcomes, especially after the mechanism for those outcomes has been cited, understand that the burden of proof lies with you. Show me the protections that guarantee that this couldn't happen. I would be glad to know them. – CandiedOrange – 2016-05-04T00:58:11.837

@ruakh i disagree. sorry. that's how language works. – sgroves – 2016-05-06T17:48:42.097

"That said, I'm proud that even growing up in a small conservative town I could still find these words defined in the school library's dictionary." Well said!! This is what's at stake here when you go to the core of this issue. Next religious people will be taking offence of the word Evolution... What then? – Stijn de Witt – 2016-05-09T19:32:27.013


A (sic) after the names on first mention might suffice.


Posted 2016-05-02T06:09:33.480

Reputation: 6 143

26I am pretty sure that is not how "sic" is used. From my understanding "sic" is used in quotes to denote that a mistake was in the original source. – StrongBad – 2016-05-02T12:48:25.877


From wikipedia - The Latin adverb sic ("thus"; in full: sic erat scriptum, "thus was it written")[1] inserted after a quoted word or passage, indicates that the quoted matter has been transcribed exactly as found in the source text, complete with any erroneous or archaic spelling, surprising assertion, faulty reasoning, or other matter that might otherwise be taken as an error of transcription.

– mccainz – 2016-05-02T12:49:52.033

1That's @StrongBad's point, though: there is no error in the use of the full name, and thus usage of "sic" is not strictly correct. – hBy2Py – 2016-05-02T15:56:30.720

27@Brian Our gentle readers assume that the authors of BrainFuck were good people who would never use foul language and the vile OP made a transcription error when he wrote BrainFuck instead of BrainFudge. The sic advises the gentle reader that there was no transcription error. – emory – 2016-05-02T17:55:34.817

7@emory that is a pretty abstract way of using sic – StrongBad – 2016-05-03T01:20:49.203

1This is a technically correct use of sic, but may not be correctly understood. – DavidC – 2016-05-05T16:50:49.463

In practice I mostly see "(sic)" used when the author want to 'bash' the author he is quoting... Then again it may be that Reddit is not the best place to read :) – Stijn de Witt – 2016-05-09T19:34:29.400


Lawrence put it best in their comment:

Unless this is the first paper on that programming language in that publication, you should have precedence to draw on. Failing that, ask the editor.


Posted 2016-05-02T06:09:33.480

Reputation: 1 530

But there's a reason he wrote it as a comment, not an answer. – OrangeDog – 2016-05-03T11:11:35.083

13I'm not sure what that reason was. It's a complete and helpful answer. – Kevin – 2016-05-03T12:57:37.097

2We agree to disagree. – OrangeDog – 2016-05-03T12:57:51.783

1@OrangeDog I often see people responding with a comment in situations where they might not feel they deserved the reputation points that would come from a correct answer (in this case, you might not want to be rewarded for correctly answering "these are the people you should be asking:…") – henry – 2016-05-03T23:33:35.790


There are numerous acceptable ways to refer to the language. The page about it at says this:

Due to the fact that the last half of its name is often considered one of the most offensive words in the English language, it is sometimes referred to as brainf***, brainf*ck, brainfsck, b****fuck, brainf**k or BF. This can make it a bit difficult to search for information regarding brainfuck on the web, as the proper name might not be used at all in some articles.

It seems that would be an important consideration when you decide.


Posted 2016-05-02T06:09:33.480

Reputation: 156

12I kind of like "b**fuck" myself. – Octopus – 2016-05-06T16:28:37.667


Consider avoiding the problem entirely, by not providing these languages with the honor of being on your paper. The namers of these languages chose something that they realized would cause problems. Don't glorify such a mis-decision by unnecessarily polluting your good research work.

You will likely elicit scorn, and compulsions to roll eyes, even if many people have sufficient restraint to communicate their disapproval. Some people are likely to see this as a clear mark of unprofessionalism. Even if you don't get formal feedback, this may impact people's appreciation, and may affect subjective scoring. All in alll, why unnecessary embrace such negativity that will provide you with no benefit?

Seek out alternative solutions, and use them. Those who are aware of the entire scenario may have a high appreciation of your successful endeavor.

The most common abbreviation I have found for the first language is "bf". e.g., searching for "bf language" on Google will show foul language in the results. page on this language provides some other abbreviations, noting, "This can make it a bit difficult to search for information regarding brainfuck on the web, as the proper name might not be used at all in some articles." That's a downside of this language's name.

Or, instead, consider avoiding the problem entirely by using an alternative. I propose that you consider using Ook! Ook!, which is directly convertible to the bf language that you mention. If you're interested in language features, this ought to be a direct substitute that will serve you well. (The only really significant downside I am aware of is just that it is less well-known, so if you're wishing to discuss a community, then it may not have the same effect. Oh, and I do know of one other technical disadvantage: the source code may be a bit larger, even though the interpreted meaning ends up being the exact same.)

Regarding the other language you mention, I notice that for the JS one, many of the top sites use its full (spelled-out) name and also use the term JSF*ck. Searching for JSF*ck on Google does manage to pull up the sites. So, that does appear to be a name that is heavily accepted by the community surrounding that language.


Posted 2016-05-02T06:09:33.480

Reputation: 1 805

18glorify a mis-decision? what? this seems like an awfully judgmental answer. the name of the language is brainfuck, period. calling it anything else could potentially be inaccurate or misleading. if the reader takes offense to the name of that programming language, that's not the fault of the author of the paper, and the author should not worry about it. whether you personally think the name is a "mis-decision" is completely irrelevant. – sgroves – 2016-05-02T23:54:41.387

9I'm tempted to create a handful of languages literally called BF, Brainf*k, Brainfck, Brainfick, etc, just to make it more confusing. It should be referred to by its proper name. – Kevin – 2016-05-03T01:00:32.630

@sgroves: This was not accidentally judgmental. Not long ago, many mothers punished children for uttering such language, by having them put a bar of soap in their mouth. Whether you deem such penalties as well-justified or feel such rules were silly, the namers of the language created a situation where people cannot easily discuss the language without inciting controversy and worrying about bureaucracy and reception by clashing cultures. This distracts from being able to focus on other unique, interesting aspects of the language. They disrespected formality, upon which much of academia depends – TOOGAM – 2016-05-03T12:55:35.580

9Introducing deliberate spelling mistakes just because you dislike some word is silly. – CodesInChaos – 2016-05-03T13:59:16.507

9@toogam on the contrary: not using correct names for things in a formal paper is surely a disrespect of formality. the author of the paper didn't choose the name brainfuck. you seem to be suggesting that the audience may not be mature enough to handle seeing this name in a formal paper. now that is disrespectful. we punish children for such language because they are children; we expect adults to be mature. they are just words, after all. – sgroves – 2016-05-03T14:39:10.877

3What about git? "git" is slang for "stupid", and the name of that version control system was chosen for exactly this meaning. The "git" command manual describes itself as a "stupid content tracker". Should you avoid referencing the most used VCS in the industry because its name is inappropriate? – Hay – 2016-05-04T20:37:57.197

@Hay That's interesting. I always thought git = get. Cause you're getting the code. – DCShannon – 2016-05-05T01:57:42.403

@Hay: Nice attempt at an analogy. (I find it flawed because the levels of inappropriateness are not equal. Still, I appreciate the point's validity.) How many inappropriate things do you think should be in a formal paper? – TOOGAM – 2016-05-05T05:00:13.500

@sgroves: "we punish children for [an action] because they are children". You should punish children for doing something wrong. Doing otherwise is just mean and cruel. "we expect adults to be mature": then I hope they'd find alternative ways to communicate, without requiring such inappropriate utterances (whether verbal or in writing). In high school I thought such language rules were rather silly. Now I'm grieved at how the war has turned out, namely due to the pitiful method of victory; having youthful society shamefully lack respect. How is that strategy worthy of formal writing? – TOOGAM – 2016-05-05T05:08:53.923

@CodesInChaos Who said anything about introducing deliberate mistakes? Wikipedia's page on the language has 4 occurrences of "BF". These are established names. – TOOGAM – 2016-05-05T05:29:43.687

@sgroves, you said, "we punish children for such language because they are children; we expect adults to be mature. they are just words, after all." Yet, many college "speech codes" censor exactly that... just words. I'm no fan of censorship under the politically correct banner of banning so-called "hate-speech", but so long as such things exists, "they are just words" doesn't seem to be a sufficient defense. Words have meanings. The question arises simply because the language's authors deliberately decided to tweak others by making their language's name offensive. – Terry Lewis – 2016-05-05T13:55:05.260

what do college "speech codes" have to do with publishing formal papers ? i don't find your argument convincing. @toogam you seem to be missing the point. "brainfuck" is not inappropriate in a paper. that's the name of the language. words can have different meanings based on context; we should expect adults to understand this. – sgroves – 2016-05-06T17:50:09.443

@sgroves : Max's question originated at English.SE before Brian migrated. OP's question wasn't whether the word's usage violates law, or a specific college's published guidelines. max asked, "should" he? The question begs for a judgement call. Even the topic choice is tenuous, requiring OP to tread carefully to handle, including avoiding forbidden speech. American culture raised me to disagree with the 4 words you most recently said before "in a paper". "It's a formal paper" does not justify the faux pas of inexcusably using either of those names.

– TOOGAM – 2016-05-06T21:16:09.527

@TerryLewis Chiming you in, because it looks like sgroves was asking a question regarding your comment, not mine. – TOOGAM – 2016-05-06T21:16:24.120

TOOGAM-Tks. @sgroves, you said, "they are just words, after all". And personally, I agree. But, I've heard of too many cases where persons get in trouble for using the correct word in the correct way, with no offense intended. In an age where one can be sued for using the wrong gender pronoun, "just words" doesn't mean much! No, it's not the same setting... but logically, which seems less offensive... referring to a biological male as "he", or explicitly citing the name of a language? Point being, it's an unnecessary risk (see answer by Octopus) that I would think is unwise to take. – Terry Lewis – 2016-05-06T22:27:09.730

@sgroves, I started programming when I was 14. Even now at 48, if I told my mother that I was programming in that language without censoring myself, she'd slap me silly... name of the language or not! You don't talk like that around mama! Yes, that's the name of the language. Yes, IMHO, it could be cited in formal papers uncensored. But it's not something I would do. BF's creators decided to be provocative; that is their right. That doesn't mean that I must do the same. If my name is on the paper, it will reflect me, and I would choose a less (potentially) offensive approach. – Terry Lewis – 2016-05-06T22:48:54.417

@TerryLewis YOU might not talk that way around your mama, but that's just your personal culture. don't speak for me. i don't care about people trying to get me in trouble when i haven't done anything wrong. if you're afraid of that, fine. but don't try and tell me i shouldn't write the proper names of languages in formal papers like functioning adults should be able to do. upvotes seem to agree with me. – sgroves – 2016-05-09T18:44:15.740

Unrelated, but we have an ID generator that generates IDs in base36. And incidentally, fuck is a perfectly valid base36 number. As are ass and boob and what not. We actually discussed algorithms to 'sanitize' the generated ID but ultimately decided agains it... We support over a dozen languages... Do we have to sanitize all words that could be offensive in any of those languages?? Saying the author of brainfuck is causing problems is short-sighted. The more cultures mix, the more impossible it will become to keep this up. It is the over-sensitivity that is causing the problems. – Stijn de Witt – 2016-05-09T19:41:40.753

@sgroves, that's not my point. The point is a) that word is a known offensive term, b) the author has a choice between a known offensive term, and other terms that correctly identify the language, and c) the OP asked what he should do. IMHO, today's culture is such that you take a risk with almost ANYTHING you say. If this formal paper is important (for school or work), I would take the least offensive approach. My mother was just an example of one who would find ANY usage of the term offensive; do you want to risk your career by assuming that my mother is not the recipient of this paper? – Terry Lewis – 2016-05-09T23:38:30.677

1@StijndeWitt, you said, "It is the over-sensitivity that is causing the problems." This actually most-correctly reflects my view. If one of my coworkers sent me an email with the term, I wouldn't complain. Others, however, would take it to HR. The defense of "but that's actually the name of the language" might make logical sense, but HR often will err on the side of caution, especially when any hint of sexuality exists. Sexual harassment is now defined by the perception of the alleged victim. I don't fully agree with this, but it's today's reality. – Terry Lewis – 2016-05-09T23:44:31.240

@TerryLewis Sad, but true. – Stijn de Witt – 2016-05-10T17:17:09.250