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Disemvoweling, disemvowelling (see doubled L), or disemvowelment of a piece of alphabetic text is rewriting it with all the vowel letters removed.[1][full citation needed] This original sentence:

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

Disemvoweling is a common feature of SMS language[1] as disemvoweling requires little cognitive effort[citation needed] to read, so it is often used where space is costly. The word disemvoweling is a portmanteau combining vowel and disembowel.[1]

The word was used with precisely this meaning in the 1939 novel 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 NaziN*z*, evolution*v*l*t**n, gun controlg*n c*ntr*l. "The purpose is not to make the word unrecognizable but to make it a mention rather than a use."[2] The term "disemvoweling" —attested from 1990[3] — was occasionally used for the splat-out of vowels.[2][4]

Teresa Nielsen Hayden used the vowel-deletion technique in 2002 for internet forum moderation on her blog Making Light.[5] This was termed disemvoweling by Arthur D. Hlavaty later in the same thread.[6]

Nielsen Hayden joined the group blog Boing Boing as community manager in August 2007[citation needed] , when it re-enabled comments on its posts,[7] and implemented disemvoweling.[8] Gawker Media sites adopted disemvoweling as a moderation tool in August 2008.[9][10] On 30 October 2008, TIME magazine listed disemvoweling as #42 of their "Top 50 Inventions of 2008".[11]

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."[12] Also, Boing Boing producers claim that disemvoweling sends a clear message to internet forums as to types of behavior that are unacceptable.[13][needs update]


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[citation needed] . 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."[14] 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.[15]

Matt Baumgartner, a blogger at the Albany Times Union, reported in August 2009 that the newspaper's lawyers had told him to stop disemvoweling comments.[16]


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.[17]

The technique has been facilitated by plug-in filters to automate the process. The first, for MovableType, was written in 2002;[18] others are available for WordPress[19] and other content management systems.


  1. ^ a b c Maxwell, Kerry (13 August 2007). "disemvowelling or disemvoweling". Word of the Week Archive. Macmillan. Archived from the original on 24 June 2007. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  2. ^ a b Raymond, Eric. "splat out". The Jargon File (version 4.4.7). Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  3. ^ 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)
  4. ^ Raymond, Eric. "disemvowel". The Jargon File (version 4.4.7). Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Hlavaty, Arthur D. (21 November 2002). "Comment 48". Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  7. ^ Frauenfelder, Mark (28 August 2007). "Welcome to the new Boing Boing!". Boing Boing. Archived from the original on July 6, 2009. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Crecente, Brian (8 August 2008). "Kotaku's New Tool: The Straight Razor of Disemvoweling". Kotaku.
  10. ^ Popken, Ben (7 August 2008). "Consumerist Site Design Tweaked". Consumerist.
  11. ^ "42. Disemvoweling - 50 Best Inventions 2008". Time. Time Inc. 30 October 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2008.
  12. ^ Jardin, Xeni (2008). "Online Communities Rot Without Daily Tending By Human Hands". The Edge Annual Question 2008. Edge. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Cohen, Noam (7 July 2008). "Poof! You're Unpublished". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  15. ^ "Online Crisis Communications: Your First Statement Is Crucial". PR News Online. 21 July 2008. Archived from the original on 16 January 2009. Retrieved 4 November 2008.
  16. ^ Baumgartner, Matt (31 August 2009). "A, E, I, O, U and sometimes why". City Brights. Albany: Times Union. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  17. ^ Nielsen Hayden, Teresa (18 April 2007). "Moderation certificate: Comment #10". Making Light. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  18. ^ Bryant (8 March 2009). "Deprecating Disemvowelment". Archived from the original on 29 June 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  19. ^ Disemvowel plugins

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