Put it away you bad boy!
Filth! Profanity and filth. There’s a lot of it in books these days, and some people want none of it. In which case, may I have their share please? Yes I’m nailing my mucky colours (scarlet and blue, natch) to the mast right here, right now. The recent furore over the recent ‘Clean Reader’ App reminds me of my July 2014 AE blog post (A Cock and Balls Story) in which I found rudeness in old books that the authors probably didn’t intend. Pop back and look if you want a cheap laugh. So anyway I’m clearly well qualified to blog about this here today.

'We like a good time as much as anybody.' 'Hester! you said b-o-d-y!'
Mainly in the US, and mainly evangelical Christian, readers have for some time now been wielding their mighty Amazonian Swords of Review to cut the dirty bits off us authors (ouch!). You know, the ‘I’d have given this four stars but…’  or 'I'm giving this one star because someone said a rude word' syndrome. These modern Puritans use the word ‘clean’ a lot, very telling – sex, (or as I’ve seen it called by a self-proclaimed 'clean' publisher, ‘pink bits’) is dirty! I’ve even seen authors on facebook asking for advice about whether to censor their own books in advance, just in case someone takes time off from dressing up their piano legs in frilly unmentionables to object some time in the future.
'Oi! I can see that horse's ankles! Disgusting!'
If you’ve not been following the Clean Reader fuss, here’s the dirt on it. A Christian couple created the app, and Page Foundry’s Inktera supplied support. The idea: you buy a book from the Inktera catalogue via the App, and then the algorithm spots all the f-bombs, c-words and sweary stuff, and covers them with a blank and a green dot. Click on the dot and you are offered alternative ’cleaner’ words. Examples below! Maximum bowdlerization setting is ‘squeaky clean’ which considers ‘hell’ or ‘damn’ to be profane and not for decent eyes. Wash your mouth out!

There is an obvious religious slant to this, and Joanne ‘Chocolat’ Harris and others have led a furious charge against the app for changing the works of authors who chose to use those words in their creative process for good reasons. Several writers tried CR out and blogged about it. Clean Reader’s creators claim it’s legal because it doesn’t actually change the words, just hides them. Hm. It’s been argued that it is illegal especially in the UK because it violates the Moral Right of the author. You may not realise we have moral rights or even lefts, but it’s that thing you see on copyright pages.

Their certainty about their (Far-)rightness (on their website, they claim changing our written words is the same as removing blue cheese from a salad you've bought) may be unshaken but Inktera has now removed all their catalogue from the App. Good summing up of it all here. Shame, as my novels are now on there and I like to imagine the speeches of Stacey Reed from THE OPERATOR and THE ROTTING SPOT or the saucier passages from LYDIA BENNET'S BLOG given the CR treatment, if only for five minutes chuckling time, though not of course censored or changed. However, the issue remains and will keep coming back. In the meantime, let’s have some fun with it (thus subverting the creators’ aims as well). I've been perusing the list of suggested words on this blog post by Jennifer Porter and imagining the results.

All the words for vagina are replaced with ‘bottom’. Not even ‘front bottom’ or ‘lady garden’! Thus all sex in C-lit (What's wrong? It’s short for CleanReader Literature) is anal sex. God help children (one of the demographics they are aiming at) who read about babies coming from people’s bottoms. 
It's all about bottoms in Clean World, folks. 

‘Penis’ becomes ‘groin’. Thus any bodice ripper with ‘He had an enormous hard groin’ now sounds like a medical textbook – rapture turned to rupture.
Something for your hero's big, hard, hot, throbbing... groin.

‘Boobs’ and ‘breasts’ become ‘chest’. Yes folks, ‘breasts’ is too rude for these people! ‘A firm, shapely pair of chest’ – hmm. What could go wrong? Well this for a start. The word ‘bitch’ is replaced by ‘witch’. At a stroke, James Herriot’s Veterinary reminiscences become satanic fantasy novels! Oh my god!
A witch with her babies. Magic!
Oops, not allowed. In the throes of orgasm (I don’t think that’s on the list, they probably haven’t heard of them), our characters must shout ‘Oh my goodness!’ As well they might – ‘sex’ is rendered ‘love’, so that any text book about sexing pets or chickens becomes a bestiality manual.
'You're having way too much fun with that fork, Henry!'
(Painting is 'American Gothic' by Grant Wood)
So anyway, the CR creators are now licking their wounds (I doubt they’d allow themselves to lick anything else) and enough people have tweeted their gratitude at having the terrifying power of simple words defused before their delicate eyeballs see it, to suggest they’ll be back. So what do you all think? Is it ok to change a book you’ve bought – it’s yours after all. If you can draw moustaches on illustrations or make shopping lists in the margins of a paperback novel, if you can change the font and size on an ereader, why not this? Where exactly does the right, moral or immoral, of the author and the right of the reader/buyer, coincide or clash? Is one of them the other one’s bitch, I mean witch? This is all part of the new technology of ebooks, one of many issues to arise.
Another treat for cock fans. It's a big one!
Still, it’s comforting to reflect that they can take our words but they can’t take our dirty minds from us, and we can still fnarr at all the cocks, intercourse, and ejaculations of early 20th century novels to our hearts’ content. And subvert any future Clean Readers by taking the pi - wee-wee out of them.

Visit my website valerielaws.com for more disgraceful books, plays, art installations, and performances. Blindfolds provided for those of sensitive disposition.

Some of my thirteen books are now on Kindle UK US, iBooks UK US, Kobo, Nook and more, on all platforms worldwide.


Sandra Horn said…
Thank you for the siggle (sigh+giggle - ohcringe+snarf snarf)
Jan Needle said…
well, brush me man chicken with lightly compressed (but dry) mouth-lips and call me diminutive of Charles (for fear of upsetting fans of the Hebdo massacre). thanks catherine. i've seen the light.
Jan Needle said…
by catherine, i mean valerie, of course. there's no app can navigate through such sophistry, huh?
Bill Kirton said…
What sort of lives do these people and the readers for whom they’re catering lead? How do they procreate? It’s absurd, as are they. Now if there were a reverse gear on CR, it would create a much more challenging read. I tried it and I’m able to confirm that I sexed this post, Valerie, from top to … er … well, various anatomical bits with different functions.
I was spluttering into my coffee reading this this morning! I've had those 'I would have given this 5 stars but the profanity upset me' kind of reviews. But is a Scottish fisherman really going to say, oh dear me, my engine has broken? I always find it very odd (and I can say this because I am a Christian of sorts, albeit a wishy washy one, with inclinations to the old style, slightly pagan Celtic version) that the extremists never seem to notice that JC had almost nothing to say about sexuality - but an awful lot to say about violence and hatred.
Meant to add - Bowdler lives!
Chris Longmuir said…
Loved this post, haven't laughed as much for yonks! Now, I'm wondering if I should have the gangsters in Dead Wood saying 'goodness gracious me' instead of using the 'F' word.
glitter noir said…
You took me by surprise, Val. Had no idea you were this funny or--X-rated. Great post. Btw, do you remember a novel by Gore Vidal, in which he replaced all unClean words with names of Supreme Court Justices?
Nick Green said…
It's a curious thing, how certain language has developed a sense of being 'bad'. For instance, why is it bad to describe certain anatomical features, or to describe them with some words but not others? What is it about the nuances in the words that makes the difference between descriptive and (for some) offensive?

Fuck is a good example. A friend of mine (who was a precocious child) described her first day at secondary school, where she encountered a bunch of older boys effing and blinding. She marched up to them: 'Why do you keep on saying Fuck?' she asked. 'Do you even know what it means?' They looked down at this pipsqueak. 'Yeah,' sneered one. 'Do you?'
'Yes I do, as it happens,' she replied. 'And it doesn't mean what you seem to be using it to mean.'
Kathleen Jones said…
Thank you Val for a very good laugh! Such censorship makes me madder than a March hare. I was brought up among Primitive Methodists where even make up was banned, never mind swearing and sex. It was a dull life!
JO said…
Reminds me of my first visit to the custom house museum in Malacca, with statues of naked women behind a curtain, to protect the innocent - and rubber vagina for all to see (I assumed they didn't know what it is!).

It's changed - the statues just have scarves draped over their bits now. No vaginas, just three dildos!
Enid Richemont said…
God (if there is one) dreamed up all our naughty bits (and for those of Islamic persuasion, even women's HAIR!!!) So, having made them, He (or She) would be Almightily offended if we didn't enjoy using them. Oh, and Love is in there, too. Well, that's Human.

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