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Bad Words In Books
Posted: Thursday, September 7, 2006

By Linda E. Edwards

In the Bible there are stories of daughters who seduced their old father into having sex with them. There is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, where the father offered his daughters to the homosexual men who were demanding the young men be turned over to them. There is the story of the king who sent one of his soldiers to die in battle, just so he could get his wife. And of course, King Solomon had five hundred wives and seven hundred concubines. And there is Onan.

Now, Mr. Shakespeare's stories of murder, assassination, and foul language and concepts is one of our favourite set of "Literature" books. What do you think it was that Othello's friend told him Desdemona was doing behind his back that led him to murder her? Having tea with her friends? If we understood the language of Shakespeare, we would understand the vulgarity. Shakespeare also wrote Julius Caesar where they murdered the emperor for political spite. This is read by many fifteen year olds. Is the concept of suicide for love better for children than a vulgar word?

Africa's most brilliant writer, in my opinion, Chinua Achebe has a few "bad words" in his books. 'Arrow of God' has quite a few, and 'Things Fall Apart' deals with the murder of Ikemefuma by his father.

A policy that I have adopted when a book has some unacceptable words, but is of literary merit, is to tell the children that that is the language of the real world, when they come to such a word, if it violates their sensibilities, skip over it and keep reading. Do not read it aloud. Most vulgarities are in the dictionary also.

The greatest vulgarities, of course, are not in words, but in the daily acts of violence that children worldwide are forced to see. starvation to death, murder by military officers, called war, and the constant assault on their culture by people in power. Compared to that, a s--'t word, or an f..k word is nothing. The human spirit does not die from using them. The human spirit dies from acts of brutalization that has nothing to do with supposedly vulgar language.

Just a reminder, the staid and stately waltz was once considered the most vulgar of dances. The distance between the waltz and the "dutty wine" they see is considerable.

Parents can uphold their standards by telling their children that such language is unacceptable in the spoken word, in their house, and leave it there. Most kids will not write it in their papers. Its something they 'shu shu' about and giggle.

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