[SystemSafety] Dangerous Language

Les Chambers les at chambers.com.au
Sun Nov 16 03:37:58 CET 2014

Hi All

I am today gratified at the efforts of many media organisations - and indeed
certain individuals -  to safeguard our moral values. I refer to this
excellent review of the latest biography of American playwright, Tennessee




I draw your attention to this paragraph:


Williams's last hit was The Night of the Iguana in 1961, the play Hepburn
finally knocked back because of the demand she commit for more than six
months, at a time she was preoccupied with an ailing Spencer Tracy. Williams
wanted her in the role of Hannah, the spinster. The other leading role was
played by the great Bette Davis, who returned to the stage after 30 years in
Hollywood and caused such mayhem that the leading man, Patrick O'Neal,
struck her to the ground screaming, "You f..king c..t." And all the while,
witnesses said, Davis was smiling. She left after 128 perform-ances and
farewelled the cast, which included distinguished British actress Margaret
Leighton, with this: "I'm sorry had to irritate you with my


Spelling out "f..king c..t" would no doubt trigger an instant societal moral
meltdown from which we would be unlikely to recover. Much like the creation
of the moon where a massive interplanetary collision converted the surface
of the Earth to magma.


But the story does not end there. Intrigued by O'Neal's eloquence I
determined to take notes. I have an Android smart phone which supports
voice-to-text dictation into emails. It's a web service provided by Google.
On voicing these dangerous words I got this on my screen: "f****** c***".
Amazed, I said it again and got the same result with the correct number of
asterisks. Full marks to Google for corrective, protective action and
stellar risk reduction.  Google went those extra yards and did not reproduce
the "king" or the "t". Which I thought made the whole thing a little less
blatant and a little less offensive. Makes you wonder though, are those guys
really from California?  


Now let me be clear, I'm not against this kind of thing. In fact if you
attempt to put any of these words on any of my forums
(http://www.chambers.com.au/forum/forum_home.php) you will be disappointed.
The system will respond with a "..." (lazy programming on my part). I once
spent a wonderful morning dredging up from the bowels of my profoundly
depraved former lives, all the foul language I had ever heard or used, which
- given I started my working career in the Electrical trade on construction
sites - is a substantial body of knowledge. (As an aside, I welcome defect
reports from anyone who is able to get something offensive through my


I can only wonder though, if Google has gone too far in protecting us from


This experience resonated with me due to a recent incident where my phrase
"pissed off" was questioned by an editor. This is a work in progress and the
outcome is uncertain. Attendees at the safety critical symposium in Bristol
this coming February will witness the outcome. If I prevail, arrive prepared
for moral outrage. Alternatively if anyone on this list could suggest
appropriate figleaf asterisks to disguise the offensive elements of this
phrase I would be eternally grateful.


Despite the above, I feel that the Bette Davis experience affirms the life
of the committed functional safety engineer and gives us yet another
insightful parting response. Don't you think?




Les Chambers
Chambers & Associates Pty Ltd
 <http://www.chambers.com.au> www.chambers.com.au

Blog:  <http://www.systemsengineeringblog.com/>

Twitter:  <http://www.twitter.com/chambersles> @ChambersLes
M: 0412 648 992
Intl M: +61 412 648 992
Ph: +61 7 3870 4199
Fax: +61 7 3870 4220
 <mailto:les at chambers.com.au> les at chambers.com.au


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