..general rules..

Grant Barrett gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG
Mon Jun 18 20:09:58 UTC 2001

On lundi 18 juin 2001 14:37, GSCole <gscole at ARK.SHIP.EDU> wrote:
>Although I do not frequent nor search for such sites, today a student
>noted that 'pr0n' is often used in communications about both pornography
>and porn sites.  Apparently, the usage is an intent to avoid filters on
>corporate or school communications sites.  Of course, the filters could
>be modified to search for any spelling whatever, so the actual purpose
>of the spelling is not apparent to me.
>In a search on: p0rn, pr0n, and pron, an ample listing of porn sites
>will be presented.  At what point would those spellings, if ever,
>deserve a dictionary listing?  Are there any general rules?  Would they
>even reach slang status?

[I claim no expertise on anything having to do with porn].

Let's emphasize that the word pr0n is spelled pee-are-ZERO-en, or prĂ˜n, if you
prefer the old dot-matrix zero-oh distinction.

The Jargon File has this:


"[Usenet, IRC] Pornography. Originally this referred only to Internet porn but since
then it has expanded to refer to just about any kind. The term comes from the warez
kiddies tendency to replace letters with numbers. At some point on IRC someone
mistyped, swapped the middle two letters, and the name stuck, then propagated over into
mainstream hacker usage. Compare filk, grilf, hing and newsfroup."


Eric S. Raymond doesn't quite fill in the gap: we don't know if the typing error or
the oh-zero replacement came first. Otherwise, this jibes completely with my
understanding. The intentional misspelling to avoid filters theory is probably false.

First, the word pr0n has been on the Internet at least as long as I have, since
1992, well before content filters were common, legislated or commercially available. It
was real, raw Internet at the time (and almost all of the porn was non-commercial).

Second, most content filters do almost all of their action based upon a blacklist of
forbidden sites, not by search words, since logically you could reach a porn site
and download pictures without ever typing in a potentially offensive word. Even if
someone is tracking your searches (usually via a mandatory web proxy), avoiding the use
of risky words is made easier by the metatag stuffing that porn sites do, hidden
information that the search indexes use to return accurate results. Porn sites put
everything in there, including the name of any halfway attractive famous woman anywhere in
the world, many references to body parts and their related verbs, and a lot of
misspellings. So searching for pr0n or Catherine Zeta-Jones+breasts would likely turn up
many of the same pages.

Third, most content filters not only prevent users from visiting certain sites, but
they track where users actually do go, in order to add any new sites to the
blacklist. Using pr0n instead of porn would not prevent this kind of tracking.

Finally, as always, let's not ascribe to cleverness what can better be ascribed to
stupidity. Spend even five minutes at one of the many search engines that show
current, live searches, and you'll be at first interested and then disheartened at the
number of spelling errors, typos and idiotic queries. People don't pay attention, and the
kind of dumbass that goes asking around about porn is just the kind to make such a
basic error in the first place.

Of course, maybe he's the kind who doesn't know anything about filters, either, and
so thinks a simple spelling change will save his dumb ass.

Grant Barrett
gbarrett at worldnewyork.org
78 South Third Street Apt. No. 1
Brooklyn, NY 11211
718 384 8271

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