Lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower has a nice piece in Slate, “Can a Woman ‘Prong’ a Man? Why it’s so hard to put sex in the dictionary. It starts off with a great anecdote:
In 1966, Jess Stein, the editor-in-chief of the major Random House Dictionary of the English Language, told the New York Times about a meeting he convened with the company’s editorial and sales staff to discuss the words cunt and fuck. “When I uttered the words there was a shuffling of feet, and a wave of embarrassment went through the room,” he said. “That convinced me the words did not belong in the dictionary, though I’m sure I’ll be attacked as a prude for the decision.”
Stein did not have to wait long to be proven right on the last point: A mere two weeks later, the Times‘ own book reviewer wrote, “Unfortunately, a stupid prudery has prevented the inclusion of probably the most widely-used word in the English language. The excuse here, no doubt, is ‘good taste’; but in a dictionary of this scope and ambition the omission seems dumb and irresponsible.”
Needless to say, I agree with the reviewer, but the idea of the Times, one of the most prudish publications on the face of the earth, making that particular complaint is pretty hilarious. (It must have taken considerable restraint on Jesse’s part not to point that out; I am incapable of such restraint.) Anyway, there’s a lot of good stuff in there (and, of course, lots of swear words).