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bowdlerize

IPA

How to pronounce bowdlerize (audio)

Dictionary Definition of 'bowdlerize'

To remove or censor content from a literary work, typically to make it more appropriate for a general audience.
"The TV network had to bowdlerize the movie to make it suitable for prime time."

Detailed Meaning of 'bowdlerize'

The term originates from Thomas Bowdler, an English physician and philanthropist who published a family-friendly edition of Shakespeare's plays in 1807, removing any content deemed too risqué or offensive for women and children. When someone bowdlerizes a work, they may omit or alter words, phrases, or scenes that are considered vulgar, obscene, or controversial, often to comply with social or cultural norms. The act of bowdlerizing can be seen as a form of censorship, as it limits access to the original, unedited work. While bowdlerization can be controversial, it can also be seen as a means of making classic literature more accessible to a wider audience, particularly young or sensitive readers.

Examples of 'bowdlerize' in a Sentence

1. To make the classic novel suitable for children, they decided to bowdlerize it.
2. If you bowdlerize this historical text, you will remove its authenticity and original context.
3. The director had to bowdlerize the script to make it appropriate for all audiences.
4. The radio station had to bowdlerize the song before playing it due to explicit lyrics.
5. Many argue that to bowdlerize a piece of literature is to deny its full understanding.
6. Teachers sometimes bowdlerize classic plays for school performances.

History and Etymology of 'bowdlerize'

The verb 'bowdlerize' has an intriguing etymology associated with its originator, Thomas Bowdler, an English physician and editor. In 1818, Bowdler published an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare's works, titled 'The Family Shakespeare,' in which he significantly toned down or removed what he considered to be offensive or inappropriate content to make the plays more suitable for family reading. The term 'bowdlerize' soon emerged as a reference to this practice of censorship and alteration. It essentially means to sanitize or expurgate a literary work, removing or modifying content to make it more suitable for a general or sensitive audience. The etymology of 'bowdlerize' is inextricably linked to Thomas Bowdler's efforts to create a 'clean' version of Shakespeare, and the word continues to be used to describe such editing or censorship in literature today.

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