Media Drops the F-Bomb Into Its Headlines

We've long known that bloopers are one of the great and inexplicable pastimes in television. We learned recently with Fox's Ernie Anastos that at the height of those unexpected gaffes is catching someone cursing on air.

So when "Saturday Night Live" cast member Jenny Slate accidentally uttered a vulgarity during the live broadcast this past Saturday, you immediately sensed that it would become the talk of the rest of the weekend. Some blogs had posted video of the moment mere minutes after the episode ended. Beyond the most obvious reason to explain why this picked up steam - an ongoing discussion about decency on TV - this error merited more than a passing glance thanks to its timing. It happened during the season premiere, and Slate's first episode.

Entertainment sites and blogs rapidly picked up the story, discussing where this left "SNL" and where the incident ranked in the show's (surprisingly short) history of obscenities. In a different era, video wouldn't have been as readily accessible or viewable. As a result, it would not have generated the same kind of buzz. Editors would have removed the explicit language from subsequent re-airings -- as they're bound to do with this one. But it lives, and grows, online.

This story screams of mass blog appeal. Yet, the mainstream media has followed it as well, further blurring the lines between the two. Credible news sites competed on the weekend, no less, and joined the fray in covering a story that might have fallen outside of their jurisdiction at another time and place. In their coverage, newspaper writers, by and large, echoed the same language that their blogger counterparts chose.

"F-Bomb" is a colloquial term you might expect to see ascribed to blogs and other less renowned sites. It's clear, though, that when approaching this story, newspaper writers struggled to come up with the right method to describe what had occurred. Many popular newspapers' blogs ran "F-Bomb" in their headlines: See here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Now, the case could be made that these sites' blogs are held to a different standard than the usual stories that get published in the print edition. Consider then the Associated Press' headline:

'Saturday Night Live' starts season with F-bomb.

Based on the number of publications that ran the AP's report, including the New York Times, it's clear that this term has been widely accepted as acceptable. Some might ask for an alternative option. I seem to recall the commonly used "F-Word" that was once the fallback phrase to use when you wanted to avoid using that obscenity. The only one I could find who used "F-Word" instead of "F-Bomb" was the Washington Post's Tom Shales, who also managed to keep it out of the headline.

A search of the recent news yields other examples of the "F-Bomb"'s rise to acceptance and prominence on popular news sites. By the looks of it, the "F-Bomb" has been lurking for some time now, but it took the Slate incident on Saturday to help propel it more into the public's mouths.

Call me old-fashioned, but what ever happened to the old, reliable, and charged F-Word?