Friday, August 24, 2012

Help Me Clean Up My Potty Mouth - and WIN!

Ralphie, from A Christmas Story. At least it wasn't Lifeboy.
Today we discuss an important topic: Curse words, dirty words, bad words.

I recently received comments from my freelance editor on a manuscript written for young adults (ages 12 and up). I don't use the F-word much in the manuscript, but there were quite a few instances of the word "ass," and more than a few shits, damns and derivations thereof.

In my mind, for some of my characters, their voice comes through speaking that way. For example Fanny, one of the main characters in the Emily Adams series, one of her favorite words is ass (or asshat, asshole - you get the picture). It just rolls off Fanny's tongue. It's hard for me to "hear" Fanny speaking any other way. Not all of my characters speak that way. Jake Stevens for example (also from Emily's House), rarely curses. But for a character like Fanny, it just won't do to have her say something like "darn" or "shucks."

But the editor made a good point to me. She advised me that some parents have problems with the use of foul language in books their kids read (the younger the child, the more problem it will be perceived to be). And parents have been known to pitch a fit at a librarian for shelving books in the middle-grade of teen section that have curse words in them.

I believed the editor, but I decided to put the question to the Facebook community. I got more response to this question than any thing else I've ever posted. It proves there are strong feelings. And not surprisingly, parents (and teachers and some librarians) are pretty vehement that the F-word does NOT belong in books written for kids, EVER. (Of course, most stated the belief that their child(ren) don't use such language - *cough*.) Perhaps we'll address the issue of elitism and parent denial in another post.

The strong response I got on the Facebook page made me realize that if I want my books to have the widest possible audience (and I do), then I need to be aware of how parents will respond to cursing in books.

But what do I do about my potty mouth characters? Fanny can't say "aw shucks," or call someone a poopy pants.

I decided to embrace this challenge. I'm on a quest to build a library of non-swearword urban slang. It's time to get creative.

Here's where you come in. I want to hear your most creative slang words to replace curse words. Here are a few examples to get you going, words that I think can work well to replace asshole:

Clump nugget 

Butt munch 

Cretin

How about tart monkey? Ever heard of that? I thought it sounded naughty, though not sure what it really means?!

Do you have clever stand ins for curse words? I want to hear them!

And if the sheer joy of sharing your most original language creations with me isn't enough of an incentive to post a comment, let's sweeten the deal. 

Time for a contest! 

It's the "Help Me Clean up My Potty Mouth!" contest. 

Have fun, you little tart monkeys. Go get your creative caps on, you dill weeds, and send me some blasted words.


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