Future Tense

IPhones Should Be DTF

We need a Laissez-Swear Mode. Is that too ducking much to ask for?

Dozens and dozens of yellow rubber ducks wearing sunglasses
All out of ducks to give. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Here’s “one more thing” I’d like to see at the big Apple event on Wednesday: an option to allow fucking on the iPhone. No, not futuristic phone sex—I mean the word fucking, without a paternalistic overcorrection to ducking.

The iPhone’s autocorrect is not a fan of profanity—in fact, it’s here to counsel users in the opposite direction, making them retype a swear word again and again if they really want to use it. The smart keyboard is programmed to change NSFW words into SFW, The Good Place–esque alternatives: duck for fuck, shot for shit, he’ll for hell, and duck for dick. (Honestly, how often could we be trying to talk about water fowl?) It refuses, meanwhile, to autocorrect to vagina, even when one types cagina.

But this “iPhone puritanism” has gone on long enough. What we need is a keyboard setting—opt-in, not opt-out—that will allow autocorrect to recognize, include, and encourage profanities (and vaginas) with the click of a button, as easily as we switch between languages and emoji. Call it Laissez-Swear Mode, if you will.

The F-to-D revision has long been a point of contention for predictive texters, with good reason. Unlike The Good Place’s fork-for-fuck (or the commonly accepted fudge and frick), the duck replacement is vague. For those of us with frustrations to express, it’s doubly frustrating. Fucking autocorrects to ducking despite the fact that the former word is used far more frequently that the latter. (I would hazard a guess that the activity is more frequent, too.) According to Google Books’ Ngram Viewer, fucking’s lead has been climbing exponentially since it overtook ducking in 1966—41 years before the invention of the iPhone. (It now sits at 10 times the frequency.)

Look, I’m not going so far as to say that ducking ought to autocorrect to fucking, despite its predominance. But an opt-in swear-happy mode would be truly convenient—something Apple is supposedly all about. It could follow in the footsteps of Alexa’s kid-friendly mode, FreeTime, which when enabled prevents children from requesting to songs with explicit lyrics. Adults, however, should be able to decide whether they want their keyboard (or their kid’s keyboard) to be able to type a swear.

On Sunday, Business Insider published an interview with the man responsible for the censorious keyboard, former Apple designer Ken Kocienda. “We decided to err on the side of not inserting obscenities into the text that might be going to your grandma,” Kocienda said. He added because D and F are right next to each other, Apple had to make a judgment call on which way to lean. “It’s hard,” he added. “These decisions are sometimes on the knife’s edge.”

I’ll tell you what it is: censorship (and curse-word censorship is serious business). D and F are uncomfortably close, but Kocienda’s nanny state could have simply made duck an alternate suggestion for when users type the F word, rather than overruling them—and vice versa proposed fuck for duck. (It’s not like bird lovers have never seen the word before!) And surely Apple could create a way to judge, according to context, when you need the noun and when you intend the versatile verb-exclamation-noun hybrid.

Of course, profaners can train their iPhone to default to the naughty “-uck” by going into Settings (General > Keyboard > Text Replacement) and overriding or turning off autocorrections, or by creating a contact for their friend “fuck fucking fucked.” But based on the number of articles out there explaining how to do this, it appears this “knife’s edge” decision has landed on the blunt side for most.

Apple has the chance to fix this mistake at its major fall event Wednesday. It’s expected to launch three new iPhones and “a new era.” Why not a new sw-era while we’re at it? According to a USA Today survey, the most commonly desired feature in the new iPhone is improved battery life, with 75 percent of respondents saying this topped their list. But this survey surely did not include the suggestion of Laissez-Swear Mode, something that would have universal appeal.

Although seeing as Apple’s event is Wednesday, it’s probably too ducking late.