Censored for real this time

I’ve talked before about voluntarily cleaning up the language in my books to make them more suitable for kids, libraries and classrooms. It really has been voluntary.

What happened to my newspaper column recently, however, was done without my permission, without a chance to rebut the complaint and, in fact, without my knowledge. That may sound outrageous, but in truth it’s just a fact of life in a newsroom.

The crazy thing here is that the word is clean and unoffensive, at least in the sense that I used it.

In discussing liquor in my column, I used the word “hooch.” It’s a word I probably learned from MASH.*

However somebody on the copydesk knew that it has another, R-rated meaning. So the word was replaced.

But lots of words have other, R-rated meanings. Half of our verbs are euphemisms for dirty deeds. And let’s not even start in on nouns. They’re filthy, filthy things!

I don’t have any sort of wise conclusion to end with. (Obviously, it really doesn’t matter if I get to write “hooch” or not.) It’s just another absuridty from newspaper-land which I thought you might get a kick out of.


*Oddly, MASH got me in trouble in middle school, when I used one of Hawkeye’s words: “Pervert.” Why would anyone get in trouble for saying “pervert,” when other kids are busy carving the F-word into every permeable surface on the school grounds? Good question. AND YET IT HAPPENED…


3 Responses

  1. Did you see this very funny auto-censorship story when it came out, during the Olympics?


  2. Several years ago, a columnist got in trouble for using the word “niggardly” in his column. Of course, a casual glance at the spelling will tell you that it has nothing to do with the racial epithet like which it sounds, and in context it was used to refer to a white man.

    Much censorship, I’m afraid, happens because of the ignorance of the censor.

  3. I’ve had a drink called Harper’s Hooch– it’s a fruit-vodka “alcopop” drink akin to Mike’s Hard Lemonade. What a pain that your word was replaced without even consulting you.

    A friend of mine once wrote an opinion piece that ended with an arch reference to “the guy in the black hood sitting in the back row” (i.e. executioner). The editor thought that using the word “black” would be interpreted as negative, i.e. racist, and removed it. When it went to press, people who read the piece thought the writer was referring to a Klansman.

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