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Quitcher bitchin

511BWffIkbL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Last week, I had a complaint from a librarian about a Magazine review in which we called a character “fucking adorable.” Although I’m enjoying the thought of editing a magazine in which such sentiments might be expressed, we of course had called a character no such thing–it was a quote from the book under review, and we included such sassy language to make sure our readers knew what they were in for.

And today we’re in trouble for another quote, from David Elliott’s Bull, which Elissa used in the introduction to her Notes from the Horn Book interview with the author. “Whaddup, bitches?” is mild even by the standards of broadcast TV, but it seems to have set a couple of people off. Do these people have or know any teenagers? More to the point, does their personal objection to certain words manifest itself in selecting and recommending books for young readers? Because that would fucking piss me off.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. It is not the use of “curse words” that offended me, but the use of the word BITCH. That derogatory, misogynistic word still makes me cringe. Yes, I did raise two teenagers, both girls. That word was never used in my house without my sharing what that word was truly saying about them and their role in society. I have never been able to buy into that reclaiming business. If you look up the definition of that word, from the Urban Dictionary to the Merriam-Webster, all you read is a whole lot of nasty and it is all referred back to women.

  2. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    I agree completely and have the same issue with the usage of “suck.”

  3. Isabel Allende's Worst Nightmare says:

    As usual, female dogs have been vilified. Children often refer to canines with male pronouns, because we’ve been acculturated to associate the word bitch with only awful things. I’m personally tires of this and on behalf of the population of female dogs worldwide would like to take back this word.

  4. Love, LOVE that you have the stones to print this. As a committed potty mouth who knows the power of the “wrong” words to connect with teens who feel ” all wrong,” I thank you.

  5. Token Prude says:

    However they may venture to talk among themselves, I suspect kids find adults who showily sprinkle their speech or writing with four-letter words less cute, fun, and interesting than those adults find themselves. For those of us who dislike vulgarity in print, the easily-foreseen danger is that kids will be forced – by adults titillated by swearing for an audience of kids (as a regular practice, obviously a fairly new thing) – to find new provocations to replace the old chestnuts which have served us so well. Are you certain you wish to hear really foul, really raunchy language from children’s mouths, and to reproduce that in your books (and your little subversive reviews)? If you can’t answer that in the affirmative, then it would be best not to defang fuck and shit of their little remaining value, out of a pathetic, ego-driven desire to demonstrate to kids – look, I swear whenever I want to ! It’s not shocking to me, that’s how cool I am!

    Kids, too, are natural moralists. [Somebody’s got to be, or your words will lose all their incantatory power, and you surely don’t want that! They’d then hardly be worth the constant repeating, n’est-ce *pas*?] One can easily imagine kids, in thinking of their mothers, subscribing to Anthony Burgess’s notion that “a man can fuck a whore but, unless his wife is a whore, he cannot fuck his wife.” I think adults teasing or tampering with this attitude is about on par with with our cultural wisdom in sexualizing childhood. Let them come to your “broad view” in their own time, among their peers.

  6. Allison Grover Khoury says:

    very interesting, thank you all for your comments.

  7. Y’all need to cuss more. Roger, you don’t cuss enough. That said, I can’t go very far past hell or damn online, though I will misspell sht on purpose. Now apparently my daughter will drop the f-bomb and every other bomb online, and she’s in high school, so she’s way ahead of me, as well as all the other adults complaining about bad language.

    I’m more worried about impressionable adults learning bad words from high school kids, tbh.

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