Horace and the Profanity Filter

1 Conversation

We know what this is about. If we do not know what this is about, we are on the wrong website, or have been on an intergalactic cruise for the last few months.

A note on the final paragraph: Astute science fiction fans will find those eight words. Horace is counting on you.

Horace and the Profanity Filter

Big Sister is watching

Horace usually liked web writing. But not today.

He sat back in his new ergonomic chair – even more backbreaking than the last one, his clandestine sabotage had not been successful – and took a thoughtful sip of the Clarion's tea. And swallowed, painfully. That salesman ought to have been shot, he mused, the new 'comprehensive tea delivery system' was producing swill that was worse than the stuff from the old urn, now retired (and used by his editor for an umbrella stand). Horace reached for the usual remedy – Glenfiddich from the bottom drawer – and applied it liberally, then returned to the Problem At Hand, which was Arabi Tchernovsky, the new Supervisor for Online Decency. Arabi Tchernovsky was skinny, sharp-nosed, and wore her glasses on a leash, and although she'd only been on the job for about a week, Horace hated her. He had already planned 42 different deaths for Arabi, each one nastier than the last.

At first, Horace had paid little attention to Ms Tchernovsky's efforts to keep the newspaper's online presence – a fancy new powder-blue-and-white site which Horace privately compared (unfavourably) to the one produced, for free, by his ISP back in the late 90s – pure, pristine, and free of smut, trash talk, and libel. Editor-in-Chief John Farnsworth, initially skeptical, had taken a look at the statistical figures for libel suits directed at media outlets and become enamoured of Arabi's no-nonsense guidelines.

'Our aim is to have a cavil-free Clarion, ' Tchernovsky announced at one of her training seminars. Farnsworth beamed at her, while Horace privately wondered if Arabi realised what people posted on newspaper websites for, namely to see themselves complaining in print and pixels.

Horace hadn't paid much attention to all this at first – after all, he was not in the business of editing the Clarion's fanmail, and the S.O.D.'s job was to supervise reader feedback, surely? Then the bombshell exploded: A.T., as John was now calling her, unveiled her pièce de resistance. The Fallacy Filter. For writers.

Horace gritted his teeth as he worked on his latest blog, stopping only to refresh his tea mug and search for metaphors. As literary editor and all-purpose blogger, it was his job to enlighten, entrance, and enthuse. To stir the smouldering embers of interest in the written word and its power of imagery, rather than to cheer newsmakers from the sidelines. His brief was to employ the mot juste, the telling phrase, the piquant parable...

How was he supposed to do this with Mrs Grundy on his back? The idea of Arabi Tchernovsky jumping on his back like a demented, bespectacled monkey made him chuckle over his tea. Horace finished his essay for the week, pushed 'Send' to pass it on to what he privately referred to as the 'Word Police', and sat back to wait. He filled in the interval by imagining himself as an operative for S.O.,E. (he'd always loved the comma in that acronym), on a desperate mission to save Humanity, searching for the perfect secret code to escape the prying eyes of the Gestapo...

His reverie on the subject of the imagery in The Life That I Have was rudely interrupted by the 'you've got in-house email' ping. Opened, the missive almost scorched the screen. Horace was unsure whether to call the office geek, as he at first suspected malware.


My Dear Mr Wallingford,

This prose is UNACCEPTABLE. In fact, it is the most blatant violation of the rules of decency in writing it has ever been my misfortune to encounter. The Filter macro has flagged no fewer than EIGHT offensive words in this paragraph.

Please rewrite and resend. Your supervisor will be advised of this waste of company time.


Arabi Tchernovsky

Horace was stunned. He perused the (to him) innocent text. He thought about asking Ms Tchernovsky what, exactly, the offensive words were. But he knew better. She would never tell him. It was 'against policy'.

I have to develop a dirtier mind to solve this problem, he muttered.

Forty-five minutes of wasted company time later, Horace gave an excited yell – one which sent the administrative assistant scurrying for cover (he was afraid of Horace, anyway, ever since the Paper Clip Incident). Horace, laughing hysterically (a not unknown phenomenon at the Clarion), penned – no, typed – the following:

My VERY Dear Ms Tchernovsky,

Is your macro, by any chance, vetting these articles without benefit of clergy? That is to say, without spacing or punctuation?

If so, I can see where the problem lies. I can only suggest you subject your own name to the same process. I also suggest you read less science fiction. That stuff has been clinically proven to damage the prefrontal cortex, leading to personality disorders.

Hugs and kisses,

Horace Wallingford

Horace surveyed his email with satisfaction. That's telling her, he thought, and went in search of fresh floor scrapings from Assam, muttering something about bolshy gloopy chellovecks (Horace was a major fan of Anthony Burgess, and often quoted his hero, Enderby), leaving this on the computer to be seen by the Prophet Zarquon and everybody:

The history of PETA quite astounds us. Convincing one's fellow humans to show compassion is a daunting task, perhaps everywhere in Europe save noble Belgium. Animal cruelty must be opposed: to stem the flood, bait shops must be closed. Zark Ingramsmeg, head of the Gordon Bennett Society, excused his behaviour thus: 'This topic? Not fun. Print able to defend us, won't...We deny having used live prawns in our annual fishing contest. We employ only foul-smelling – but dead – Korean gim. Boid Rimmer will back me up on this. '
A bolshy gloopy chelloveck

Fact and Fiction by Dmitri Gheorgheni Archive

Dmitri Gheorgheni

29.11.10 Front Page

Back Issue Page

Bookmark on your Personal Space



Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry


h2g2 is created by h2g2's users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the Not Panicking Ltd. Unlike Edited Entries, Entries have not been checked by an Editor. If you consider any Entry to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please register a complaint. For any other comments, please visit the Feedback page.

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more