bowdlerize

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

From Thomas Bowdler, who in 1818 published a censored version of Shakespeare, expurgating "those words and expressions... which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family."

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bowdlerize (third-person singular simple present bowdlerizes, present participle bowdlerizing, simple past and past participle bowdlerized)

  1. To remove or alter those parts of a text considered offensive, vulgar, or otherwise unseemly.
    The bowdlerized version of the novel, while free of vulgarity, was also free of flavor.
    • 1909, H. G. Wells, Ann Veronica, ch. 1:
      Mr. Stanley decided to treat that as irrelevant. "There ought to be a Censorship of Books." . . .
      Ogilvy pursued his own topic. "I'm inclined to think, Stanley, myself that as a matter of fact it was the expurgated Romeo and Juliet did the mischief. . . . All they left it was the moon and stars. And the balcony and ‘My Romeo!’"
      "Shakespeare is altogether different from the modern stuff. Altogether different. I'm not discussing Shakespeare. I don't want to Bowdlerize Shakespeare."
    • 1912, Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World, ch. 2:
      "Wadley sent a message: ‘The President of the Zoological Institute presents his compliments to Professor Challenger, and would take it as a personal favor if he would do them the honor to come to their next meeting.’ The answer was unprintable."
      "You don't say?"
      "Well, a bowdlerized version of it would run: ‘Professor Challenger presents his compliments to the President of the Zoological Institute, and would take it as a personal favor if he would go to the devil.’"
    • 1961, J. A. Philip, "Mimesis in the Sophistês of Plato," Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, vol. 92, p. 455:
      His critics take alarm only when it becomes apparent that he would bowdlerize Homer and exclude from his state the great tragedians.

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