Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Slurpee Day, Bowdler Day

Tomorrow, July 11, will be Slurpee Day -- 7-11, get it? -- and USA Today reports that the chain will be giving away 12 oz. Slurpees at participating locations. The Blog of Days makes no warranty in this regard.

Thursday is also Bowdler Day, for Thomas Bowdler, an English doctor, born on July 11, 1754. He is remembered today, not for any medical accomplishment, but for his attempt to 'improve' on Shakespeare by removing all offensive words and phrases from the Bard's collected works. Bowdler's magnum opus, The Family Shakespeare was first published in 1807; he also prepared 'family' editions of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (published posthumously) and certain books of the Old Testament.

Bowdler's efforts are remembered in the verb 'to bowdlerize,' meaning to expurgate, to prune, to edit, with particular attention to removing any naughty bits that might bring the slightest blush to younger or more sensitive readers (or viewers).

In modern usage, the verb is never bestowed as a compliment.

But is that fair? Bowdler was not a censor, not in the sense of someone trying to bring the power of the state to bear against a movie or book, to purge it of portions deemed offensive or to ban it outright. Rather, Bowdler considered himself Shakespeare's biggest fan. "I acknowledge Shakespeare to be the world's greatest dramatic poet," Bowdler wrote, "but regret that no parent could place the uncorrected book in the hands of his daughter, and therefore I have prepared the Family Shakespeare."

Many of us of a certain age can cite popular television programs or movies that would be, in our opinions, improved considerably by toning down, eliminating, or substituting a euphemistic reference for a full-frontal, in-your-face 'comic' bit. Perhaps it is time to re-think the pejorative nature of the verb 'bowlderize.' Some media conglomerate stands to reap a fortune if it can release tamer versions of its more popular entertainments.

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