Call It Shit Town

Because that is its name.

A sloppy Voxxer says that the new podcast from Serial and This American Life never should have been made. There is a much more convincing essay to be written supporting that thesis than the one that got published, but I’ll leave The Parsing of The Ethics to the professional Janet Malcolm-citers. Let’s get to the real shit.

The shit is not the shit,” a man thinks to himself in a perfect passage from Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, “the pigeon is the shit.” Also, the title of this podcast, despite what every blog would have you believe, is Shit Town. (Shit town? ShitTown? Shit-Town? Mail….kimp? Shit•Town? It definitely begins with “shit.”) I know this because host Brian Reed says so at the beginning of every episode! “This is ‘Shit Town,’” he tells me. Thank you, nice to be here.

Even the name of the show is actually “Shit Town,” the owners of the show — the creators of “This American Life” and “Serial” — have decided to package and market it as S-Town. Its title on iTunes is S-Town, and its various social media handles are all S-Town.

I understand why “This American Life” did it. “Shit” would gum up the SEO of the take-industrial complex; the New York Times is not going to put “shit” in a headline or anywhere else in the article, so give them something that they can. And it’s probably hard to get the scams that advertise in podcasts to offer introductory rates at But there is no good reason for bloggers to go along with what The New Republic admits is “advertised euphemistically.” (TNR still used “S-Town” in its headline, but to their credit, went with Shit-Town in the body.)

Just because advertising employs euphemism does not mean you have to. As Barry Petchesky wrote last year, the fact that someone is paying for a name does not mean that they are paying you to call it that. No sponsor is paying for it to be packaged as S-Town, but that was still a conscious choice by the people who own a show that is actually called “Shit Town.” You don’t have to call it S-Town.

Excepting newspapers’ hard no-cussing line, that means you, Wikipedia, AV Club, Vanity Fair, CNN, Vulture, The Huffington Post, Nerdist, Entertainment Weekly, Mashable, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Vox, The Verge, Slate, Heavy, Wired, The Daily Dot and particularly f*cking youVice.

It’s the internet. Go ahead and say “shit.” Shit Town’s press office did not respond to a request for comment; I recommend giving all seven episodes a listen if you have a minute. It’s good shit.

Dennis Young is an editor at FloTrack with a shitty Twitter account.