|Look up disemvowel in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
would, after being disemvowelled, look like this:
- Th qck brwn fx jmps vr th lzy dg
Because disemvoweling makes text legible only through significant cognitive effort, it is used by moderators on internet forums, newsgroups and blogs as a way to limit the effectiveness of unwanted postings or comments, such as rudeness or criticism. Disemvoweling maintains some transparency, both of the act and the underlying word, which would not be the case if the entire offending post is deleted. The word disemvoweling is a pun on vowel and disembowel.
The word was used with precisely that meaning in Finnegans Wake (p. 515).
A technique dubbed splat out was used by Usenet moderators to prevent flamewars, by substituting a "splat" (i.e., asterisk) for some letters, often the vowels, of highly-charged words in postings. Examples include Nazi→N*z*, evolution→*v*l*t**n, gun control→g*n c*ntr*l. "The purpose is not to make the word unrecognizable but to make it a mention rather than a use." The term "disemvoweling" —attested from 1990— was occasionally used for the splat-out of vowels.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden used the vowel-deletion technique in 2002 for internet forum moderation on her blog Making Light. This was termed disemvoweling by Arthur D. Hlavaty later in the same thread.
Nielsen Hayden joined the group blog Boing Boing as community manager in August 2007, when it re-enabled comments on its posts, and implemented disemvoweling. Gawker Media sites adopted disemvoweling as a moderation tool in August 2008. On 30 October 2008, TIME magazine listed disemvoweling as #42 of their "Top 50 Inventions of 2008".
Xeni Jardin, co-editor of Boing Boing, said of the practice, "the dialogue stays, but the misanthrope looks ridiculous, and the emotional sting is neutralized." Also, Boing Boing producers claim that disemvoweling sends a clear message to internet forums as to types of behavior that are unacceptable.
In July 2008, New York Times reporter Noam Cohen criticized disemvoweling as a moderation tool, citing a June 2008 dispute about the deletion of all posts on Boing Boing that mentioned sex columnist Violet Blue. In the Boing Boing comment threads resulting from this controversy, Nielsen Hayden used the disemvoweling technique. Cohen noted that disemvoweling was "Not quite censorship, but not quite unfettered commentary either." A subsequent unsigned case study on online crisis communication asserted that "removing the vowels from participants’ comments only increased the gulf between the editors and the community" during the controversy.
Nielsen Hayden originally disemvoweled postings manually, using Microsoft Word. Because the letter Y is sometimes a vowel and sometimes a consonant, there are a variety of ways to treat it. Nielsen Hayden's policy was never to remove Y, in order to maintain legibility.
The technique has been facilitated by plug-in filters to automate the process. The first, for MovableType, was written in 2002; others are available for WordPress and other content management systems.
- Maxwell, Kerry (13 August 2007). "disemvowelling or disemvoweling". Word of the Week Archive. Macmillan. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
- Raymond, Eric. "splat out". The Jargon File (version 4.4.7). Retrieved 6 October 2009.
- Thomas, Martyn (31 August 1990). "Risks Digest 10.37". comp.risks. Google Groups. Retrieved 6 October 2009. "Censored, even though disemvoweled (as in *br*dg*d or s*n*t*z*d)"
- Raymond, Eric. "disemvowel". The Jargon File (version 4.4.7). Retrieved 6 October 2009.
- Nielsen Hayden, Teresa (19 November 2002). "Housekeeping". Making Light. Retrieved 6 October 2009. "I decided that since nobody was paying attention to PS's arguments anyway, and it's dreary having to scroll up and down past them, they'd be better shortened. So I took out the vowels."
- Hlavaty, Arthur D. (21 November 2002). "Comment 48". Retrieved 6 October 2009.
- Frauenfelder, Mark (28 August 2007). "Welcome to the new Boing Boing!". Boing Boing. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
- Nielsen Hayden, Teresa (4 September 2007). "Witchcraft practitioner wins Mega Millions lottery: Comment 33". Boing Boing. Retrieved 6 October 2009. "Disemvowelling. You can still read it if you want to work at it, but you don't read it automatically. I prefer it to deleting posts that have objectionable material in them. Sometimes, if it's just a phrase or sentence or paragraph that's the problem, I'll disemvowel that and leave the rest in plaintext."
- Crecente, Brian (8 August 2008). "Kotaku's New Tool: The Straight Razor of Disemvoweling". Kotaku.
- Popken, Ben (7 August 2008). "Consumerist Site Design Tweaked". Consumerist.
- "42. Disemvoweling - 50 Best Inventions 2008". Time. Time Inc. 30 October 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2008.
- Jardin, Xeni (2008). "Online Communities Rot Without Daily Tending By Human Hands". The Edge Annual Question 2008. Edge. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
- Doctorow, Cory (14 May 2007). "How To Keep Hostile Jerks From Taking Over Your Online Community". InformationWeek. TechWeb Business Technology Network. Retrieved 15 May 2007.
- Cohen, Noam (7 July 2008). "Poof! You're Unpublished". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
- "Online Crisis Communications: Your First Statement Is Crucial". PR News Online. 21 July 2008. Retrieved 4 November 2008.
- Baumgartner, Matt (31 August 2009). "A, E, I, O, U and sometimes why". City Brights. Albany: Times Union. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
- Nielsen Hayden, Teresa (18 April 2007). "Moderation certificate: Comment #10". Making Light. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
- Bryant (8 March 2009). "Deprecating Disemvowelment". Retrieved 6 October 2009.
- Disemvowel plugins