Commenter Amy on Ben Zimmer’s first “WTF” posting pointed readers to Maude Spekes & Sybilla Grogan’s book Jabberfucky, described on as follows:

A parody of poetry anthologies, Jabberfucky is a romp of bawdlerized versions of best-loved poems. If you love word games, poetry, or vulgarity, Jabberfucky is sure to delight.

Yes, bawdlerized ‘made bawdy’, a play on bowdlerized. (I posted some time ago on a series of bawdlerized postcards, in which photos of signs were altered by replacing innocent words with FUCK or FUCKING.)

There are a few other occurrences of bawdlerize to be found on the web —

[about the movie of A Bridge to Terabithia] Will Hollywood find a way to bawdlerize a simple but moving children’s novel? We’ll see. (link)

and the word is sometimes suggested as a conscious invention —

[Barbara Walraff in The Atlantic] A number of other readers sent in examples of vulgarized lyrics (thanks so much, folks!), thereby earning themselves the right to be called by whatever a name would be for people who do this, which was a related word fugitive being sought. A few readers suggested bawdlerize and bawdlerizer … (link)

[a suggested “twisted definition”] bawdlerize – To gratuitously insert obscenities and lewd descriptions into classical literature in order to spice it up for modern schoolchildren. (link)

But most of the occurrences are eggcornic replacements for bowdlerize:

Therefore, I advise along with Donna that you read the stories yourself and then bawdlerize as necessary before sharing them with your class or children. They are truly great stories and legends, but not everything in them is appropriate for children. (link)

I’ve seen the beautiful 70mm print [of Lawrence of Arabia] owned by the Seattle Cinerama Theater; I’ve seen the pan-and-scanned, adbridged and bawdlerized version distributed on VHS; and I’ve seen the widescreen version on DVD in current circulation. (link)

I noticed several years ago, when I was reading a children’s book of mythology, that the writer intentionally bawdlerized the stories for modern sensibilities. (link)

and there’s even:

Let’s dig up Mr. Bawdler (who ‘bawdlerized’ that old offender Shakespeare) and have him start re-educating the Brits … (link)

(That would be Dr. Thomas Bowdler, of expurgated Shakespeare fame.)

You can see where the re-shaping came from, since bowdlerizing is associated with bawdiness. Of course, bowdlerizing is removing bawdiness (and other potentially offensive content), so the formation in -ize isn’t entirely satisfactory from the semantic point of view, but it at least gets bawd- into the picture.

One Response to “bawdlerize”

  1. Burlesques, parodies, playful allusions « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] bawdlerize (link): a parody of poetry […]

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