To disemvowel, or not to disemvowel?

Published 25th April 2011
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To disemvowel, or not to disemvowel?

How can you censure something, and show it at the same time? Well, you can disemvowel it. I recently came across this interesting word, and was drawn in by its imagery. It isn’t quite as exciting as it sounds, however, it’s just the process of removing all the vowels (and sometimes ‘y’)from a sentence. So that people can only understand it if they try.

Many online forum moderators use this technique to obscure offensive posts without removing them. It means that they can allow people to say what they want, but also affords other web users some protection against offence. I say ‘some’ because obviously if they want to read the post, they still can, but they will have to work a little harder to understand it. As long as the moderators make clear that this is their chosen method of censorship, people know the risk they are taking by reading a disemvowelled sentence.

Disemvowelling is also a good way to neutralise an offensive statement, as it makes it look slightly ridiculous, and so goes some way toward removing the sting of whatever is being said. Also, rather than having people wonder why their comment was deleted, disemvowelling means that the statement is made an example of, and signals what is unacceptable behaviour to other users.

However, not everyone is a fan of the approach, and it has drawn criticism from some, mainly because removing the vowels is seen as a form of commentary on the disemvowelled phrase.

S, hv y cm crss ny fnny lngstc wys t cnsr ffnsv lngge? D y thnk dsmvwllng s gd thng r nt? D y gr wth th ppl wh d t r nt, nd why? Cn y rd ths t ll?

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