• bowdlerize •
Pronunciation: bod-lêr-aiz, bawd-lêr-aiz • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: To prudishly expurgate any words, images, or expressions that might be considered offensive by anyone.
Notes: The censorship of suggestive words and phrases is bowdlerism, while the act itself is bowdlerization or bowdlerizing. One who bowdlerizes is a bowdlerizer. We are thus provided an ample store of forms to express this concept in any situation. If you are using the British spelling style, you may spell today's Good Word bowdlerise, with an S in the ending.
In Play: We generally think of bowdlerization as applying to the censorship of written material: "The new novel by Rhoda Book was bowdlerized beyond recognition by her editors." But motion pictures are generally bowdlerized before showing on US commercial television: "Some think the movie Django should be bowdlerized a bit."
Word History: Today's is another commonization of an originally proper noun, the family name of Dr. Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825). Bowdler was an editor known for publishing editions purged of all words that might prove offensive to even the most sensitive readers. He followed the principle that "(i)f any word or expression is of such a nature that the first impression it excites is an impression of obscenity, that word ought not to be spoken nor written or printed; and, if printed, it ought to be erased." In 1818 he published his bowdlerized 10-volume Family Shakespeare, which was such a success, he went on to publish a tidied up edition of the Old Testament in 1822.