Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Warning: Contains Language

Last week, I caught on Amazon’s blog Omnivoracious, in its weekly roundup, this story that publishing house Random House was removing the word “twat” from Jacqueline Wilson’s book My Sister Jodie. Jodie is, apparently, a novel aimed at readers 10 and older. Wilson and her publisher mutually decided to change the word to “twit,” which is apparently less likely to send parents and librarians and teachers all a-fuckin’-twitter, because you know those are the only people complaining.

And apparently, only three people complained in the first place.

This, by the way, is the same publishing company who decided not to publish Sherry Jones’ Jewel of Medina, a novel concerning Aisha, the 9-year-old wife of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, due to an irate letter from one academic in Texas. Also the same company who, in the UK, is inserting morality clauses into its contracts. Not just about the books, but about author’s lives.

Editorial Anonymous posted her chagrin that Wilson had deigned to Random House’s censors. I noted there that I agreed that Wilson should have changed it, but had I been her, I would have changed it to “cunt.” In the comments section, though, someone had the idea of a naughty alphabet book. Which really set me thinking. Amazon’s got a listing for something called The Erotic Alphabet, but it looks more like a series. Then again, any series one installment of which is H is for Hardcore is totally okay on my shelf.

In my warped head, though, I started thinking about an illustrated kinky alphabet book. Fully illustrated and everything. A is for asshole, b is for bitch, etc.

But it’s hard to come up with a naughty word for every letter. Over at MakingLight, Abi Sutherland asked for comments/help filling up a list of obscenities, which yielded one of the most obscene and profane list of words I have ever seen.

I’m still coming up empty for “I.” The Alphabet series uses “indecent,” but that’s not really obscene. “Inbreeding,” maybe, but I think that’s more discomfiting as an idea than as a word.


  1. And this isn’t the only twattish behaviour British book publishers are currently engaged in. The whole bad language thing in book is particularly stupid because from what I recall of my own school-days, kids were saying a fuck-ton of worse words than “twat” by the time they were ten. Me included.

    When I say a fuck-ton of words, I mean, erm, one. And that would be cunt. Or, maybe, fuck. Where does “twat” come on the swear severity spectrum, anyway?

  2. @Madeley: hmm. On the curse-word hierarchy, I always put twat beneath both pussy and cunt. I kind of think of it more as a novelty word, to be honest, but that might be because I’m from Jersey, where I think it’s part of the regional dialect. I think it’s kind of in the same league as dick, maybe? Dick/twat, prick/pussy, cock/cunt?


    And I heard about that book ratings thing, but I’d forgotten it. I can’t decide if I think it’s crazy or not; movies and games get ratings but not so much books or music. Kinda weird. Definitely interesting. Thanks for reminding me.

  3. How ’bout: interfucking, or intergasm, or innerlabiasucker.


    It says they’re words in the “Urban” dictionary.

    (Minus the innerlabiasucker {I made that one up}).

  4. @Lisa: I knew there was a reason I liked you so much. I don’t even know what those mean (well. Besides innerlabiasucker. I mean, that I can figure out. But it makes me yearn for a hyphen). I must look them up now.

  5. My first thought for “I” was “In the butt.” too long?

    So, writers should avoid Random House then?

  6. @Gotham: well, I don’t know about avoid, exactly. They publish John Grisham, Andrew Davidson (The Gargoyle), and Richard Russo, among others. I’d sell them The Prodigal Hour if they offered me enough or promised me good marketing.

    Then again, I’d sell News Corp/HarperCollins my novel for enough coin.

    But I do question these morality clauses/business decisions, yes.

    As for these ‘i’ words: I don’t know–I was looking for a single word that might offend someone itself. ‘Interfucking’ comes close, but I think it’s cheating at scrabble if only because it’s just adding a suffix to ‘fucking.’ I’m hoping for an ‘i’ word equivalent of ‘cunt’.

  7. I wanted to come here and say “Oh, I found one.” I have learned things I was happier not knowing. Your from New Jersey and a guy so most of this shouldn’t phase you like it did me.

    What if they offered you alot of money but they wanted you to change your books so they were more moral and only their version of moral? What if they wanted Dan Brown to edit it? What if they wanted you to tone down a key peice of dilogue.

    The purpose of liturature is to offend. If it offends no one your doing something wrong.

  8. @Gotham: good link, great resource, but none of those words offended me. And I don’t think most would, in themselves, offend someone else. Maybe ‘incest’ comes closest?

    As for your questions, well, I don’t know: I think the purpose of my writing is to tell stories and to entertain. I think if it entertains no one, you’re doing something wrong. I could care less about offense.

    Then again, I ain’t trying to write literature. Just books and stories. Like Shakespeare.

  9. I don’t mean you set out to offend, but that’s what liturature does. Lets say you write a story about a girl whose rescued by a boy. Uber feminist might be offended by the use of a standard damsal in distress. Or hell, Dan Brown’s davinici code. do you think it would have sold half as well if the Catholic church hadn’t decided to be offended? If you look at your favorite stories you will be able to find a group of people who were offended for the same reasons. Hell, you’ve written things I found offensive just like I’m sure I’ve written things that other people found offensive. I don’t think you have ever set out to offend me though. You, like many writers, just set out to write a good story. Imagine how Harry Potter might have turned out if J.K. rowling had tried to please everyone. Ew.

  10. @Gotham: maybe I just don’t write “literature,” then. I didn’t say I was trying not to offend anyone, just that that’s not my goal. If I offend someone in telling the story I set out to tell, so be it. But the reason I’m telling the story is that I want to entertain, mostly. JK Rowling might not have set out to please everyone, but I doubt she meant to offend everyone, which is sort of what you’re saying. My goal in writing is to communicate and to entertain. If someone gets offended while I’m doing my job, that’s not my concern.

  11. Never mind. I’m not explaining this right at all. *sulks*

  12. @Will: After this post, I remembered reading the word douchehammmer somewhere a long time ago in a thread (can’t remember if you hypenated it) but, it’s now the offical word of the month around here. Seriously, people are singing songs with it.


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