1. tonten
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    tonten Senior Member

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    Politically Incorrect Terms in a Children's Novel

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by tonten, Sep 30, 2009.

    I've always been interested in this topic.

    What are your thoughts in using a phrase like "oh my god" in a children's or teen's novel.

    I mean, I know nothing should ever restrict a writer, but what would a publisher say? Is it appropriate for a children's or teen audience.

    I'm assuming teens would be ok. Children's, probably not.
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I've read much worse in teen novels. Though really, if yu want any meaningful feedback you need to be more specific with ages. I don't think there could be any argment for including it in a book aimed at kids under say 5 or 6, but after that, if it maybe appears as dialogue from an older character, I imagine it would be fine.
     
  3. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    Apparently I've drank far too much because I can't see what is politically incorrect about saying that. It's a common phrase.
     
  4. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally I really dislike being forced to be PC. Especially over such minor things such as 'oh my god' Children, Adults, and the Elderly all use it. I can see why a overly sensitive Christian would hate it, but then what don't they hate(joking)

    I don't think many publishers are going to care at all.
     
  5. baillie
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    baillie Member

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    When I was young, in my early teens, I was reading books such as, "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, where words such as "Negro" were used frequently throughout the book.
    In modern times, obvously this is one of the most "un-PC" words you are likely to encounter and I would never think I would stumble on it within a contemporary novel.
    However, depending on when you story is set, it may be essential to the realism of you story to use the language that was used during that time. Words like this never effected me when I was younger, sure they made me think alot about their use and sometimes even drive me to question my mum about their meaning, but I was never confused that they were acceptable in this day and age. What im basically trying to say is, if "un-PC" words are used and explained in a deregatory term with a distinct sense of "wrong" about them, then I dont see why they shouldnt or couldnt be incorporated into a childrens book. It helps children to know some history of a country and of how peoples opinions and language changes.
     
  6. Goldie
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    The phrase "Oh, my God!" is used a lot in YA and teen books. Children's? I don't really read much of that so I don't know. But I doubt it. They tend to keep them more pristine, as far as I know.

    For other PC terms, it really does depend. A lot of it is in dialogue, so there is more leeway than in description. "Oh, my God, Beckie, look at her butt. It is so big." A song lyric from way back when and it brought about a lot of controversy when it did come out. There's a lot worse now, of course. So it depends on the era and the context, among other deciding factors.

    I think phrases that are considered un-PC, as it were, should be used in novels. Children's books? Yes, the parents have the decision not to purchase it, but in general ( I know generalizing is bad ), they should be avoided. And likely are. I don't know how young children are these days, but when I was little, you didn't say a lot of un-PC phrases and words. Again, it depends on the actual age group. Eight or nine, that's better than four or five.
     
  7. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    When people talk about what belongs in children's books in this context, they tend to treat all children as if they were three year old with autism children, echoing everything they hear that they like, ignoring most attempts to correct them. When it comes to books for teenagers, you should never censor yourself. The reality is, teenagers hear and do all that stuff you want to leave out anyway, so there is no reason not to have it in books that are meant for them. As for books for people under 13, it's a little trickier, but you have to understand the developmental stages and what they can handle, which is not the same for all children. If a phrase is realistic, especially with children closer to their teens, it can still be used.
     
  8. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    If you use 'OMG' they may understand you better. ;)
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    That stuff, Dcoin, is exactly what should not be done. Use the actual words.
     
  10. Sophronia
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    I think it's rather unintelligent to use any sort of modern cursing in writing, no matter the audience or political correctness. It only substitutes good writing with bad (I won't go into my own beliefs or values here, because that probably wouldn't be politically correct for this forum ;)).

    Besides, I find Shakespearean insults much more amusing and creative :D
     
  11. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I once wrote a children's story just for giggles and presented it to an editor, who said it was far too "nice" for our times. You can get away with pretty outrageous stuff in children's stories--in fact, it seems to be encouraged.

    Consider Spongebob Squarepants. I saw an episode where the squid guy got addicted to crab burgers to the same extent as a heroin addict. He had withdrawals that caused his veins to pump visibly all over his skin, his eyes becoming red, etc, and he was almost ready to kill to feed his addiction.
     
  12. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    But of course there is a line you have to draw when it comes to believability. People do talk that way, and if you remove it too much for the sake of creativity, the characters could become less believable. I know I am very picky about this is dialogue. If my character is the kind of character who uses that language, I'm going to use it.
     
  13. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Didn't read every comment, but it should be fine for teens. Perhaps 13 + ... or around there

    Through highschool, the books with profanity came at me when I was in grade 10....so 15 for me, but I was ready for it :p
     
  14. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    If any politicians who are reading this page could open another tab, that would be brilliant. Thanks.

    Nothing I write has been affected by political correctness, and I won't change words, not for any new word that the government says we must use. Political correctness is the sort of thing that, even if it could improve something, would still be pointless.

    It's not as if that people don't understand these things, and would be offended by them.
     
  15. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    "Oh my God" is fine, in my opinion, though some people of certain creeds may feel differently.

    There are very few words I have a problem with and always avoid, and they're generally very obvious. I avoid them in all my works, whether intended for children or adults, with the only exceptions being within dialogue in adult-works, and even then, it's rare and sparingly. The sex-profanity words, a certain "N" word bigots use to describe those of dark skin and African descent, a certain "R" word used to describe those with learning disabilities. That's about it...

    I don't use any racist slang, though I confess, I actually don't know or understand much racist slang, being neither racist nor around many racists, so can't use words I don't know. Once in a while I hear a word and say, "What's that?" and the other person will say, "You're kidding?" because, even in my middle age (44) I'm really naive to that stuff.

    Perhaps even more important in children's writing (and teen and adult as well) is to avoid stereotypes and to inculcate good behavior--honesty, generosity, compassion, forgiveness, etc.

    Edit
    Note:
    Though I don't use such words, opposing censorship, I have no problems with teens reading "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," which does use at least one of the words I described, though I would carefully explain to the teen why we speak differently today, reminding them of the age of the work and the language of the times.
     
  16. MarchOfMephisto
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    MarchOfMephisto Member

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    I think it depends on what kind of book you're writing.
    Many people in our time use "Oh my God" frequently, I hear it all the time from people as young as 10 years.
    However, you can always substitute it with something else, like "Oh my Gosh." It sounds a little formal compared to the original, and not many people say it, but it still works :)
     
  17. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    Oh my God is perfectly fine, but think of the chance you are missing to make the kid laugh.

    "Holy stinking tomatoes, Billy, what’s that thing on your eye?" I dunno, there are many creative things to throw in there.
     
  18. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    I like "Holy guacamoli" or "Holy canoli" though they might be more common.

    I used to know a guy who said "Pasta fazool" for a curse.
    (Though of course, it's a food.)
     
  19. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course, if you're too silly with that, you risk having to change the character's name to Robin.
     
  20. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    Yeah, and Horus mentioned SpongeBob. What does his boss say? “Blasted Barnacles” or something. “Don’t make me keelhaul ya.” And keelhauling is a horrific thing, being scraped along the bottom of a ship, skin tearing on the barnacle-encrusted hull, and the water flooding your lungs.

    Bags, you can say anything in a children’s book
     
  21. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Besides, when you submit it to publishers, if your biggest problem is too much of that kind of language for their standards, that is easily edited.
     
  22. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    Rei

    True, and of course you wouldn’t want to get too silly with it. But as with Spongebob’s boss, it adds to the character, reinforcing his nautical roots
     

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