Re: Nasty comments

Linus Torvalds (
Thu, 25 Jul 1996 09:36:05 +0300 (EET DST)

On Tue, 23 Jul 1996, Hubert A. Bahr wrote:
> I gave up using curse words to impress somebody 30 years ago.

Profanities in comments are not about _impressing_ people.

This is all about _communication_. Profanities communicate something, be
it good or bad, and they certainly tell you something about the mindset
of the person who wrote the code. Nobody has been advocating _adding_
profanities to the code, and in fact almost everybody seems to agree that
at least parts of the swear-words should go.

HOWEVER, and this is the big thing about this: a _wholesale_ removal of
profanities is just stupid and small-minded. Removing profanities without
regard to the context or the author who wrote them is a LOT worse than having
the ugly comments there in the first place.

IF this discussion had started with a simple comment like "umm, maybe we
shouldn't be nasty in printed messages, and maybe we should comment out the
'Fucking Sun blows me' message", then I'd have been more than happy to comply
with that, and a patch like

- printk("Fucking sun blows me\n");
+ /* Sun _does_ blow me, but the user may not want to know about it */
+ /* printk("Fucking sun blows me\n"); */

would probably have been accepted by me on-the-spot. Or maybe somebody could
have emailed David (or whoever wrote that particular line of code) in private
and tell him they found the message in rather bad taste, and ask him to
remove it, and he probably would have. THAT is ok.

However, it is NOT ok to just act like a mindless robot and just remove every
profanity in sight. That way lies book-burning and "forbidden" thoughts.
Sugarcoating it with "moral reasons", thinking _you_ have the moral right to
suppress others, is the ultimate immorality.

Thus endeth "Lessons in morality 101",