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  • Expletives no longer deleted

In a story on the merchant marine in the April 9, 1990, New Yorker, John McPhee quoted a sailor: “A seaman smells like a rose when he’s got money, but when he has no money they say, ‘Fucker, get another ship.'”

The sailor actually had said “motherfucker”—but of the 60,000 words in the story McPhee turned in, that was the one that bothered editor Robert Gottlieb. “In the family of recoiling words included in The New Yorker for the first time, ‘motherfucker’ had yet to be born,” McPhee writes in the magazine this week. “‘Fuck’ was alive but barely.”