Profane language is still language.

Chuck Wendig gives us the news of Clean Reader, an app that allows the user to read ebooks with the swear words filtered out. You might guess that a lot of us don’t like this. You’d be right.

I am an author where much of my work utilizes profanity. Because fuck yeah, profanity. Profanity is a circus of language. It’s a drunken trapeze act. It’s clowns on fire. And let’s be clear up front: profanity is not separate from language. It is not lazy language. It is language. Just another part of it. Vulgarity has merit. It is expressive. It is emotive. It is metaphor.

Yes. I agree with this. Profanity is language. We’re talking about actual words that real people use in their daily lives to communicate their ideas. The dividing line between supposedly clean language and filthy language is strictly arbitrary. If you read a book that was written with words like shit, fuck, bitch, ass, hell, damn, cunt, and cocksucker present, but read it with those words switched out with other, supposedly kid-friendly words, you lose a certain amount of expression, emotion, metaphor and characterization from the content. The book tends not to be as effective with the profanity taken out.

That said, I don’t really have an opinion on whether this app is or should be legal. I’m not interested in talking about whether it’s morally wrong for someone to sell this app, or use it. I think this thing is completely fucking ridiculous, and if you think you’d enjoy my books (for example) more with the f-bombs taken out, I don’t think you’d really enjoy my books either way. I’ll show you a screencap from Clean Reader’s blog that gives a good example of the absurdity of focusing on profanity:



If you’re having trouble reading the text on that image, this is what it says:

“Game of Thrones 5 book bundle is on sale for the next 5 hours. Only $19.99 for the series. That’s 50% off the normal price. Act fast before the sale ends! And read it with Clean Reader so you won’t have to read any of the swear words in the series!”

If you’re thinking you’ve been wanting to read the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, except they have so much nasty language, you should probably ask yourself what it is, exactly, that bothers you so much about those monosyllabic words.

By all means, let’s read about people killing each other! Here’s a guy getting his head cut off in front of a crowd that includes his own daughters! Here’s another guy who lets his guards gang-rape his teenage son’s wife while the son watches, and then forces the son to participate! Here’s a woman and her teenage son being murdered at her brother’s wedding! Here’s a guy whose penis was chopped off and sent in a box to his father! Here’s a grown man chucking a defenseless little boy out of a high window because the boy saw him fooling around with his twin sister! (Would it bother you more if I wrote “fucking” instead of “fooling around with”?) Here’s a woman who likes to burn people alive! Here’s an old man who’s been sexually abusing his daughters for decades, and sacrifices his newborn sons to the Army of the Undead! Look at this teenage king who orders his bodyguard to beat up a defenseless girl! Here’s a mentally handicapped woman who was gang-raped during a riot! Look, here’s a woman trying to throw her niece to her death because she thinks the girl is fooling around with the aunt’s new husband! And now the husband chucks his wife to her death, without even giving her niece a chance to leave the room! Here’s a young woman being forced to fight a fully grown bear with a blunt sword and no armor! She bit a man’s ear off earlier that day because he tried to rape her.

You want to read about all those horrible things, but you don’t want to see the word CUNT on the page? Think about that for a while. Ask yourself why that is.