Yesterday, we posted about the evolving language standards among mainstream media outlets, epitomized by 9News using "fart" on its home page and in a headline of a story that didn't otherwise include the word.
The phenomenon is even more pronounced on the social media sites of such outlets. Example? Today on its Facebook page, 7News is hyping a story about a Piranha-like fish caught in a Michigan lake with a little help from not one, not two but three terms for male sex glands.
"This story is nuts!" declares the post. "Wildlife officials confirm this scary-looking fish, which was caught during a family's fishing trip at a Michigan lake, is the testicle-eating Pacu -- a South American relative of the Piranha. SEE MORE PHOTOS of its teeth and learn why the Pacu has earned the nickname 'the ball cutter.'"
The website item, credited to WXYZ-TV in Detroit, doesn't lead with gonads. In fact, they don't dangle into view until the eighth and ninth paragraphs of a twelve-graph piece. They read:
Pacus primarily eat nuts, fruit and small fish, according to the museum. However, expert Henrik Carl told NPR in 2013 that while the Pacu's "mouth is not so big...human testicles are just a natural target. It's not normal to get your testicles bitten off, of course, but it can happen."
In 2011, a Pacu was blamed for the death of two men in Papua New Guinea, who died from blood loss after something in the water had bitten off their testicles. Pacus there have reportedly earned the nickname "the ball cutter."
As such, the "nuts" line comes straight from 7News -- and we at Westword certainly don't object. As we noted in our previous piece, we tend to take a more progressive approach to profanities in headlines and copy, the concept being that use of the actual words, as opposed to euphemisms, reflects the way real people talk.
In general, major newspapers and TV stations have resisted such actions. But over time, commenters have been given greater leeway when it comes to language and that's impacted standards, particularly on social media.
You'd be nuts to expect anything different.
Here's a YouTube video shared by 7News highlighting Pacu the Ball Cutter.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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