Is the Clean Reader a good idea?

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Is the Clean Reader a good idea?

KindleIt sounds like a good idea but is it really? couple have developed an app which censors out certain words from books that you are reading on a phone or device.

These words are mostly what some would describe as ‘profanities’ but are also body parts – for instance, in one example I saw, the word ‘breast’ was replaced by ‘chest’.

The app,say the developers, allow children and the sensitive-minded to read literature they would otherwise miss out on because of the ‘offensive’ language. To use an overworked phrase but isn’t this a slippery slope?

The developers say that they devised the app because their daughter said that she was ‘a little sad’ because she had been reading  book in the school library and was ‘sad’ because it had a few swear words in it. So, let’s not have that. Let’s wrap everyone in cotton wool, shall we? Life is not always ‘nice’. Children will find that out soon enough. They only have to watch the news on television.

And what were those dreadful words? Fully-fledged f-words and c-words? The n-word? Or were they just the odd ‘damn’, ‘breast’ or ‘bullshit’? Who decides what’s a bad word and what isn’t? Presumably, because the book the child had read was in the school library, it had been approved by professional educators as being suitable for the child’s age group. It’s worrying that one of the censors words is ‘breast’. Are we bringing up a generation who think that there is something wrong (dirty?) about certain parts of the human body? If ‘breast’ which has a completely different meaning in most contexts to ‘chest’ is a bad word are we likely to have a future generation who are sexually repressed?

Now there’s a word – sex. Is that a banned word in this app?

Users can set the app to three levels.  On the lowest, it will restrict only the words that are really bad.(Bad according to the app developers’ definition, that is). Those words will be replaced with alternatives. Quite honestly, I find it annoying when people say ‘freaking’ instead of what they really mean. I know what you mean, you know what you mean, so why not just say it? ‘Freaking is just the same as the ‘bad’ word to me. Say ‘freaking’ and  my brain instantly translates it to what you really mean.

There’s the ultimate level that censors and replaces any word that the developers decided are only just remotely ‘bad’. That probably includes ‘darn’. I’m wondering about those words the English know and love (and use). Does it change ‘bugger ‘to ‘sodomiser’? Does it change ‘wanker’ to ‘masturbator’? The originals are far less offensive. And if you are reading older literature that refers to a ‘gay party’ is that changed to ‘homosexual party’? This is all too fraught with peril to be taken seriously.Or is it?

How do authors feel about this?

Joanne_Harris_quoteJoanne Harris, the author of Chocolat, has had her say on the subject. You can see some of her comments on the right.

She has a point.(She was born in the same town as me and educated at the same school so I suppose it’s inevitable that our opinions would be similar).

I use ‘bad’words in my speech quite often, especially if I drop something heavy on my toe. I tend not to in writing because I don’t write fiction. If I did,then if that language was appropriate to the character then I would. There are certain characters who would never say ‘shoot’ when they mean ‘shit’. That would be being unfaithful to the character and condescending to the reader, surely?

I agree that very young children shouldn’t be exposed to the worst of the swear words. But I’m equally convinced that ‘breast’ should not be considered as one of them. Of course ,children should learn that ‘language’ is only to be used under certain circumstances. My in-laws, for example, don’t like to hear anything stronger than ‘bloody’. (They don’t really approve of that, either). So when we are with them, we are careful to moderate our language accordingly. That’s what children learn; to be respectful of others.

When I was at school, I don’t know if it’s the case now,Shakespeare was an obligatory part of the syllabus. Of course, in his works we get such words as ‘cock’, ‘whore’,’bitch’, ‘ass’ and pox’. Would they be censored? And if we hadn’t known the c-word, we would have been able to snigger at the famous ‘country matters’ pun.

Hamlet: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
Ophelia: No, my lord.
Hamlet: I mean, my head upon your lap?
Ophelia: Ay, my lord.
Hamlet: Do you think I meant country matters?



Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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