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…
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