The people who developed this app should be flayed alive, immersed slowly in hot oil, and fed to some pigs while still conscious.

It’s a latterday, hi-tech version of the not very much lamented Thomas Bowdler, who famously produced a family-friendly version of Shakespeare for his sister, who didn’t like the original language. What it does is offer you the opportunity to clean up the language that appears on your e-reader books. You can make it Clean, or Cleaner, or Squeaky Clean.

I have a simpler option. If you don’t like it, DON’T READ IT!

One aspect of this pettymindedness is that a lot of the finest writers will fall foul of it. Shakespeare, obviously, Chaucer, Norman Mailer, even DH Lawrence. Irvine Walsh and Ian McEwan, among a host of others, are living in the shadow of death as well. Another aspect of this is that it presupposes you can alter the words without altering the sense. Any writer will tell you that’s arrant nonsense. We spend  a lot of time and effort getting things right, and a quick look at a thesaurus will show there are words close in meaning, but aren’t an exact match.

In real life, and sometimes in my fictional writings, I can swear at an Olympic level; it’s impossible to imagine my character Charlie as somebody who doesn’t swear almost non-stop. However I have a general rule on here on my blog; I keep it calm on nobodysreadingme, unless I’m reporting speech. Just for once I’m going to break my own rule, so please look away if you are easily offended. For the life of me I cannot think of a word that can replace ‘fuck’ either as a noun or a verb. I’m completely at a loss as to how this can be changed.

Some of the changes are simply stupid. Who really thinks the word ‘bitch’ is so offensive that it needs to be changed to ‘witch?’ I think the members of a coven might take exception to this blot on their escutcheon. How does the app cope when the word ‘bitch‘ is used in its original strict sense of a female canine? I rather suspect that the word ‘fracking’ might throw up some red flags, and ‘suck’ may disappear altogether.

You may well wonder how this piece of idiocy came to see the light of day. Not surprisingly it’s the brainchild of a bunch of Midwestern hicks. Idaho couple Jared and Kirsten Maughan were concerned after their daughter was made ‘a little sad’ by swearwords in a book she was reading. Well guess what? Nobody forced her to read it, and because of this bratty behaviour any and all writers are in the firing line. I think their precious little poppet has probably heard worse in the school playground, unless the authorities have introduced death by lethal injection for swearing teenytinies.

Just what is the problem here? If you don’t know what the words mean, you can’t be upset, and if you do, well it’s not going to make a ha’porth of difference is it? If you feel that swear words corrupt, the last thing you want is a system being policed by people who have already been corrupted. If the hicks say they’re immune to corruption then they’re simply pulling rank and saying they’re stronger minded than the masses are. Now that I do find offensive. I also find offensive the fact that the Idaho hicks don’t understand the difference between ‘alternate’ and ‘alternative.’ Personal foible.

Joanne Harris makes a good point on her blog. All the replacements are American terms and don’t fit too well with English English. Some are just inaccurate. The dreaded ‘c’ word, which even I as a hardened swearbox never ever use, hardly emerges with the same sense when it’s rendered as ‘bottom.’ Any description of sex could be misconstrued as an activity still banned in many US states.

I was a bit worried about possible copyright issues here, but a cleverer and more persistent person than I am has got this covered. This link takes you to a very cogent (if occasionally ungrammatical) series of arguments.

The tagline for the site is ‘Read books not profanity.’ Well bollocks to that, and indeed bugger that for a game of soldiers while you’re at it.

I repeat. If you don’t like it, DON’T READ IT!

And just to scotch any rumours that swearing is a sign of a limited vocabulary, it isn’t. Lots of well conducted studies have shown that people who swear have larger vocabularies than similar people who are mealymouthed. Suck on that.