Naughty Words #CleanReader

As a writer, I will defend my right to use ‘naughty’ words unto my last breath. They’re a tool, like chili powder is a tool for cooking, or ginger for baking. Sometimes, it’s the exact right thing, and you just need to add exactly as much as the intended audience will appreciate. Other times, it’s the completely wrong thing, and not even a dash is appropriate.

As a reader…I often stumble across so-called swearwords. My eyes stream across a page, then find one and pause, consider, re-read, then move on. If the material happens to be laced with profanity, it only takes me off-guard the first few times, then it’s just another word. If they only pop up once or a few times, each instance grabs my attention and demands I take notice.

Hand-wringing over swearwords and body parts and sex acts is nothing new. There’s always some anxious group of parents obsessed with protecting the delicate, shell-pink ears, eyes, brains, or whatever of their precious, darling offspring. The newest of this seems to be Clean Reader, which has been complained about by many (including myself) elsewhere. On the surface, it seems to be yet another effort in this long tradition.

Those 7 words are [bleep], [bleep], [bleep], [bleep], [bleep], [bleep], and [*faint*]
Those 7 words are [bleep], [bleep], [bleep], [bleep], [bleep], [bleep], and [*faint*]
What I find intriguing about the subject has little to do with authorial intent or consent, though these are important things. It’s the notion that a class of words are so powerfully subversive that they must be labeled, contained, and ostracized from the language. Certainly, this is also not a new phenomenon. Tyrants have been prohibiting certain forms of speech forever, and there are always things we don’t talk about because we consider it too painful for the listener (except on the internet, but never mind that).

The question then becomes, what deserves a warning in the front of a book? As a writer, I don’t always know the answer. As a reader, I want to know ahead of time if a book includes a rape scene, sensual violence, or if I should expect explicit sex.

What about you? What do you like to be braced for or warned away from?


Lee French has published several fantasy and science fiction novels, and is a member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff

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Author: Lee French

Lee French lives in Olympia, WA with two kids, two bicycles, and too much stuff. She is an avid gamer and active member of the Myth-Weavers online RPG community, where she is known for her fondness for Angry Ninja Squirrels of Doom. In addition to spending much time there, she also trains year-round for the one-week of glorious madness that is RAGBRAI, has a nice flower garden with one dragon and absolutely no lawn gnomes, and tries in vain every year to grow vegetables that don't get devoured by neighborhood wildlife.

1 thought on “Naughty Words #CleanReader”

  1. Although I can sit beside myself and understand both points of view, I find myself caught somewhere in the middle. The liberal in me wants to say use what ever naughty words you want, and I truly not only believe this but live it. However with that said, naughty words no matter what background are meant to either provoke, get a rise, offend, exaggerate, ect…. So the more we use them the less meaning they actually become! So how does one limit him or her self? If I said a certain naughty word after most sentences would that not make it a normal word after a while of reading it? So in closing I say use what ever naughty words you want but make sure they are used in the right context!!! Peace out

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