Conference's Profanity Filter Is a Little Too Efficient

Paleontologists weren't allowed to use the word 'bone'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2020 2:21 PM CDT
Updated Oct 18, 2020 3:30 PM CDT
Profanity Filter Presents Challenges for Paleontologists
If a paleontologist found a pubic bone in Hell Creek, he wouldn't be able to tell anyone.   (Getty/Helen Loik-Tomson)

Paleontologists who gathered online for an annual conference this week encountered an unexpected challenge: For a while, they weren't allowed to use the word "bone." This wasn't some creative exercise. As the Guardian explains, the gathering of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology had to contend with a profanity filter that barred words it deemed offensive. Unfortunately for the bone experts, "bone" was on the no-no list, as were a slew of others. "Words like 'bone,' 'pubic,' and 'stream' are frankly ridiculous to ban in a field where we regularly find pubic bones in streams,” Brigid Christison, a master’s student in biology, tells Vice.

The filter came from Convey Services, which quickly began un-banning words as the scientists pointed them out. One attendee created a spreadsheet and asked colleagues to add to it for quicker fixes, and the results are unintentionally hilarious. "Hell," "stroke," "knob," and "ball" were fixed, but "Beaver" was still outlawed. One of the scientists, Z. Jack Tseng," tweeted his irritation about seeing "Wang" on the list. "I personally know of several vertebrate paleontologists by that surname," he tells Vice. Why, he wondered, did "Wang" get banned, but not "Johnson." (More strange stuff stories.)

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