In November of 2011, Cindi Leive, editor in chief of Glamour magazine, wrote the coverline "12 Ways to Get Your Sh*t Together." Then for the September 2012 issue, there was a coverline "Sh*t Girls Say About Clothes." Yes, in both cases, the "i" in "shit" was an asterisk, but still. It should have been a pearl-clutching moment: A four letter word, on a magazine for ladies?
As Christine Haughney writes for the New York Times, Leive "waited for the angry letters to pour in. They never came."
No one gave a shit about "shit."
"The culture has changed, so we've changed," Ms. Leive said. "It's how our main staff, many who are under 30, talk. Certain words have gone from being shocking to being neutered."
What Leive doesn't say is that we've been doing this shit for ages on the internet. Before "Shit Girls Say" was a YouTube sensation, there were approximately one zillion "fuck yeah" Tumblrs. This site has had four-letter words in headlines from the get-go. In the year 2000, one of the hottest sites was called Fucked Company. And so on. Of course the internet is full of all kinds of graphic stuff, from porn to corpse photos, but it does seem like How We Talk Now is influenced by the way we communicate online: In addition to abbreviations and icons like brb, wtf and smiley faces, we're uncensored, using words like fuck, shit, hell and ass to help convey emotion in the world of pixels.
Historically, cursing has been considered unladylike. But we've come to believe what's good for the gander is also good for the goose, and ladymags are keeping up with the times.
Still, the New York Times doesn't believe in using "unprintable" words, so the piece about using the word shit never actually uses the word shit. That shit's for ladymags and the internet, I guess.
As Graydon Sheppard of "Shit Girls Say" puts it in the Times piece: "Complaining about swear words on the Internet is like complaining about sand in the desert."
50 Shades of Vulgarity [NY Times]