A reader from Ballard has written a very sweet, very sincere letter asking why The Stranger uses the coarse language it uses:
Dear The Stranger,
Since I moved to Seattle about 5 years ago, I have had a love/hate feeling about The Stranger.
Frequently the most important things I learn about my new community I have read in The Stranger. Frequently I quit picking it up at the Ballard Library because I feel so bad after I have read articles in which your use of bad potty language has been excessive.
Seriously. I'm not talking about articles about sex, which are fine. I am talking about using words such as those with the f and sh, which make me cringe and which also are not as expressive or as clear as other adjectives, verbs, and nouns [that] would be in your writing.
Every week I also try to read the New Yorker, every month The Atlantic, and every day the New York Times, which are all excellent, as you know. No potty language needed. As well-written and packed with information as The Stranger.
More letter—and my reply—after the jump:
Just now on KUOW I heard Joni Balter, Knute Berger, and Eli Sanders on "Your Take on the News" talk about the mayoral read at the library the other night, which I was unable to attend. When I telephoned Central, they informed me that, since there was no note that it would be recorded for those (like us senior citizens) who were unable to attend, that they were almost positive it would not be.
Of course, what they just said on KUOW just now was that the recording was on the Slog ("I'm canceling Netflix and Putting the Mayoral 'Read and Greet' Video on a Loop" from June 19).
Yay! There it is! I REALLY wanted to attend this reading down at the library. SO THANK YOU.
So now I'm going to try skipping the paper version of The Stranger and just try checking the Slog every day to see if I can get the information I need without the bad language.
But the problem is that I think what The Stranger would really like me (and every reader) to do is see all the jewelry and marijuana ads, etc. I would be getting if I read the paper paper.
So in a way it would actually be to The Stranger's financial advantage to remove the obscene language. Unless I'm wrong, and part of the reason people read The Stranger is because they enjoy the obscene language (?).
AGAIN, please don't misunderstand me. This is not about sex. It is about language. Dan Savage is one of my favorite writers, for example. "The War this Time" is unbelievably good.
Since this is The Stranger, I am guessing you get about a million letters every day about every subject there is, but if you could please, just click on "Reply" on this email, so I'll know that you read it. Actually, of course, I would really be interested to hear why The Stranger is written in the style that it is (with obscene language). I would love to know.
Thank you again. I love (and sometimes cringe when I read) The Stranger!
Best wishes to you all,
This was my reply: Dear P.W.: Thanks for sending this thoughtful letter to the editor, which we'll post on Slog to share with our readers.
To answer your question: Adults swear. Even smart, thoughtful adults who know lots of other words. We don't talk down to our readers by pretending that their eyes are too tender to read the same words they hear and speak themselves. I'm sure you swear sometimes, too. Not all the time, of course, and neither do we. Most of the time, other nouns, verbs, and adjectives are best for the job. But sometimes—every now and again—an adult picks a curse word because it's the best word for the job. There's no need to belittle our readers by softening the English language like they're children.
Thanks again for writing.