Nehama (med_cat) wrote in 1word1day,

Thursday word: Bowdlerize

Continuing on the Shakespearean Wednesdays theme by uniquepov, here is a word not by Shakespeare but very much connected to Shakespeare. It is one of those words with a story behind it, a word derived from a person's name:

Bowdlerize:  1: to expurgate (as a book) by omitting or modifying parts considered vulgar
                        2: to modify by abridging, simplifying, or distorting in style or content

Etymology: Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), English editor
                   First Known Use: 1836

Thomas Bowdler was the editor of The Family Shakespeare, first published in four volumes in 1807. It was edited by Mr. Bowdler's sister; he himself edited the 1818 edition. There were several subsequent editions and reprints; this "version" of Shakespeare was quite popular.

“I acknowledge Shakespeare to be the world's greatest dramatic poet, but regret that no parent could place the uncorrected book in the hands of his daughter, and therefore I have prepared the Family Shakespeare." (Thomas Bowdler)

It is famous as THE "expurgated" Shakespeare, "in which nothing is added to the original; but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read in a family."  The word "bowderlize" was invented in 1836 carrying a pejorative sense, meaning to edit out offensive content prudishly.

Example "bowdlerizations":
  • Ophelia's death in Hamlet is referred to as an accidental drowning, not a possible suicide.
  • Lady Macbeth's "Out, Damned spot." is changed to "Out, Crimson spot."
  • Mercutio's "the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon”  is changed to "the hand of the dial is now upon the point of noon"
You can read more about the topic in this excellent essay, which contains more examples, Bowdler's own explanation of the reasons for his editing, historical information, and links to full text of several of the bowdlerized plays.
Tags: anglo-saxon, b, literature, shakespeare, transitive verb, wordsmith: med_cat

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