“They Edited Out her Nip Nops”: Linguistic Innovation as Textual Censorship Avoidance on TikTok

Main Article Content

Kendra Calhoun
Alexia Fawcett


In response to content moderation that disproportionately censors discourse by and about marginalized users, content creators on the video sharing platform TikTok have developed a linguistic repertoire whose communicative effect is akin to that of an avoidance register. Creators manipulate sound, morphology, meaning, orthography, and gesture to circumvent lexical items that may be censored based on notions of “appropriateness” articulated in the platform’s community guidelines. The strategies they use parallel documented forms of language play online and offline, as well as censorship avoidance on other social media platforms. These strategies are used most frequently on words related to contested ideas such as race, gender, and sex(uality). However, because of the memetic culture of TikTok, the practice of linguistic self-censorship has expanded to contexts where content is at little risk of top-down censorship, instead functioning to reflect creativity, make social commentary, and index sociopolitical alignment.

Article Details

How to Cite
Calhoun, K., & Fawcett, A. (2023). “They Edited Out her Nip Nops”: Linguistic Innovation as Textual Censorship Avoidance on TikTok. Language@Internet, 21, 1–30. https://doi.org/10.14434/li.v21.37371
Author Biographies

Kendra Calhoun

Kendra Calhoun is Assistant Professor of Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include social media discourse, Black digital communities, and the intersections of language, race, and power.

Alexia Fawcett

Alexia Fawcett is a doctoral candidate in Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She researches the intersections of language and culture in discourse, morphosyntax, and gesture in online and offline contexts.