Over on Facebook, a friend posted a link to the article “Lotto lout Michael Carroll going back to being a binman after blowing £9.7m win”, in which the Daily Mail, a paper known for its even-handed quality reporting, is nearly falling over itself in breathless excitement over the story of a man who spent a £9.7 Mio lottery win in only 8 years. My friend commented: “One thing I’ll say is thank God the Daily Mail starred out the word “sleeping”. Unless it was something else…”. Here is the passage in question (including the surrounding paragraphs for context):
I rather do think it’s “something else”, given that “sleeping” (in the sense of “having sex”) appears without asterisks in just the previous paragraph.
Whenever I happen to open a copy of what is called the Red Tops here in the UK, the numerous words that are being camouflaged by asterisks surprise me anew. Once, it took me a minute or more staring at “b******s” to finally figure out the word was “bastards”.
As always when you make people work harder for understanding, it increases the salience of the object they have to put in all this effort for and thereby draws greater attention to it — as evidenced by my friend’s comment when posting the article. So this, rather then prudishness, may be the real reason the tabloid press is so fond of the asterisks of avoidance.