‘Bowdlerise’ is awfully good fun to wrap your tongue around, although it brings to mind something violent and wrenching – the kind of disembowelment William Wallace’s claymore was made for.
Bowdlerise does indeed imply the gutting of something – although in this instance it’s not intestines it refers to.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines bowdlerising as ‘removing material considered improper or offensive from text, especially with the result that the text becomes weaker or less effective’.
Interestingly, the word is derived from the 18th century English philanthropist Thomas Bowdler, who made his name editing the works of Shakespeare into less risqué versions suitable for women and children.
Thankfully, bowdlerisation of the written language is happening less and less as censors become increasingly liberal. But it wasn’t always that way. Here’s five famous literary works which were, in some form or another, bowdlerised by publishers on their initial release.
‘Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain. Initially cut for its ‘corrupting’ use of slang.
‘Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D Salinger. Early editions were truncated because of moral issues and ‘excessive violence’.
‘1984’ by George Orwell. Sliced and diced for being ‘pro-Communist’.
‘The Satanic Verses’ by Salman Rushdie. Printed minus some of its more controversial passages in certain parts of the world – and removed from shelves at Barnes & Noble entirely after threats to its stores from religious hardliners.
‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ by D.H. Lawrence. Bowdlerised of ‘all the best bits’ and only released unexpurgated in the UK in 1960.
Rest assured, the only text ever bowdlerised at Wordsworks Towers is over-written flimflam. Our business copywriting is renowned for being succinct, powerful and finely-tuned to its target audience – the perfect accompaniment to any marketing strategy.