Bad words in youth fiction
“Mom, one of the books you got for me has bad words in it. I mean, real bad words, not just inappropriate words,” my 10yo son confessed to me.
I was rather surprised. We go to the library every two weeks or so, and our modus operandi is that, while the boys play on the computers, I pick out books for them. I have, many times, offered to let them pick out books for themselves, but other than a few suggestions they might have, they say, “We like the books you pick out.” I select a mix of fiction and non-, classics and more recent stories, easy “fluff” and more meaty works, and usually throw in a book or two of Christian fiction, of which our library has a surprisingly large selection.
He brought me the offending book. I looked at the title: Snow Dog by Jim Kjelgaard. Kjelgaard, who wrote his youth fiction more than 50 years ago, invariably books of adventure, usually involving some northern clime, and always involving dogs, rather along the lines of Jack London.
Surpressing a smile at my suspicions, I asked him, “So, what words did the author use?”
“The b-word. Several times, mom.”
Really working to keep that smile from lurking at the corners of my mouth, I told him, “That word, when used in its original sense, is not a bad word. It is supposed to refer to a female dog. But, nowadays, it’s most often used inappropriately, when someone wants to speak badly of a woman.”
With visible relief, Ethan said, “He used it in the proper sense, then, Mom.”
“Did you finish the book?” I wondered if his sense of propriety had kept him from reading it.
It didn’t: “Yeah, I did, in my quiet time. It was a really good book. I’m glad that he didn’t really use bad words.”
So, more Kjelgaard books are surely in our future, bad words and all.