Bowdler please, I can’t hear you

not bad

Strong Language

As a child, I was wont to explore the family library and one of the first dictionary look-ups I can recall was the word “unexpurgated.” Likely from a cover like this:


And thus I learned that editors at some level were interceding between author and reader, removing text or replacing it with grawlix (#$*)&^@) or G——, G—–n, G*ddamn, and so forth. The difference being that when the editor removes the offending text entirely, the reader is unaware that a profanity existed, whereas in the second type the reader is challenged to recreate the elided word.

While both types of edits are referred to as “Bowdlerization,” it’s the first that most closely defines the word: cleaning a work by excising offending matter. Today, this can apply to text, recorded speech, and video. So who was this eponymous censor and where did we get the term?

Thomas Bowdler (c. 1719–1785) was a banker and…

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