Expurgation, also known as bowdlerization, is a form of censorship which involves purging anything deemed noxious or offensive from an artistic work, or other type of writing of media.

The term bowdlerization is a pejorative term for the practice, particularly the expurgation of lewd material from books. The term derives from Thomas Bowdler's 1818 edition of William Shakespeare's plays, which he reworked in order to make them more suitable for women and children.[1] He similarly edited Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

A fig-leaf edition is such a bowdlerized text, deriving from the practice of covering the genitals of nudes in classical and Renaissance statues and paintings with fig leaves.

Thomas Bowdler's famous reworked edition of William Shakespeare's plays. 1818




  • "The Crabfish" (known also as "The Sea Crabb"), an English folk song dating back to the mid-1800s about a man who places a crab into a chamber pot, unbeknownst to his wife, who later uses the pot without looking, and is attacked by the crab.[3] Over the years, sanitized versions of the song were released in which a lobster or crab grabs the wife by the nose[4] instead of by the genitals[3] or that imply the location of the wounds by censoring the rhyming word in the second couplet. For instance, "Children, children, bring the looking glass / Come and see the crayfish that bit your mother's a-face" (arse).[5]
  • The 1925 Harvard Press edition of Montaigne's essays (translated by George B. Ives) was published without the essays pertaining to sex.[6]
  • A Boston-area ban on Upton Sinclair's novel Oil! – owing to a short motel sex scene – prompted the author to assemble a 150-copy fig-leaf edition with the nine offending pages blacked out as a publicity stunt.[7][8]
  • In 1938 a jazz song "Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy Floy)" peaked at number two on US charts. The original lyrics were sung with the word "floozie", meaning a sexually promiscuous woman, or a prostitute, but record company Vocalion objected. Hence the word was substituted with the almost similar sounding title word "floogie" in the second recording. The "floy floy" in the title was a slang term for a veneral disease, but that was not widely known back then. In the lyrics it is sung repeatedly "floy-doy", which was widely thought as a nonsense refrain. Since the lyrics were regarded as nonsense the song failed to catch the attention of censors.
  • In 1920, an American publisher bowdlerized the George Ergerton translation of Knut Hamsun's Hunger.


  • Recent editions of many works—including Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn[9] and Joseph Conrad's Nigger of the Narcissus—have found various replacements ("slave", "Indian", "soldier boy", "N-word", "children") for the word nigger. An example of Bowdlerization can be plainly seen in Huck Finn, in which Twain used racial slurs in natural speech to highlight what he saw as racism and prejudice endemic to the Antebellum South.
  • Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Niggers was dramatised by the BBC under the name And Then There Were None. It was subsequently re-released under this title in the United States, and the short poem which is intrinsic to the plot was changed from Ten Little Niggers to Ten Little Indians.
  • The American version of the counting rhyme "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe", which originally contained the word "nigger",[10] is now taught with a replacement word, such as "tiger".


  • Many Internet message boards and forums use automatic wordfiltering to block offensive words and phrases from being published or automatically amend them to more innocuous substitutes such as asterisks or nonsense. This often catches innocent words also: see Scunthorpe problem. Users frequently self-bowdlerize their own writing by using slight misspellings or variants, such as 'fcuk' or 'pron'.


  • Chinese internet filters—the Great Firewall—also work to block politically-sensitive terms and characters from being published on most public sites or loaded by domestic ISPs.


  • The video game South Park: The Fractured But Whole was originally going to have the name The Butthole of Time. However, marketers would not promote anything with a vulgarity in its title, so "butthole" was replaced with the homophone "but whole".

See also


  1. ^ "Censorship" (PDF).
  2. ^ Popper, William (1889). The Censorship of Hebrew Books. Knickerbocker Press. pp. 13–14.
  3. ^ a b Frederick J. Furnivall, ed. (1867). Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript: loose and humorous songs. London. p. 100.
  4. ^ "The Crabfish".
  5. ^ "Crayfish".
  6. ^ Bussacco, Michael C. (2009). Heritage Press Sandglass Companion Book: 1960–1983. Tribute Books (Archibald, Penn.). p. 252. Retrieved September 23, 2010.
  7. ^ Curtis, Jack (February 17, 2008). "Blood from Oil". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 23, 2010.
  8. ^ Sinclair, Mary Craig (1957). Southern Belle. New York: Crown Publishers. p. 309. Retrieved September 23, 2010.
  9. ^ Tomasky, Michael (January 7, 2011). "The New Huck Finn". The Guardian. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  10. ^ I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 156-8.

***, a series of three asterisks, may refer to:

*** (novel), by Wiley Mulholland

Ellipsis (…) or three asterisks in a line (***), a mark to indicate an intentional omission of a word or a phrase

Typographical symbols used to indicate a section break in writing:

*** (three asterisks in a row), also called a dinkus

Asterism (typography) (⁂), three asterisks in a triangle

*** (three asterisks in a row), a commonly used expurgation of part of any expletive, as in f***ing

Belianís de Grecia

Belianis of Greece is the eponymous hero of a Castilian chivalric romance novel, following in the footsteps of the influential Amadis de Gaula. An English abridgement of this novel was published in 1673.

It is best known today because it was one of the books spared during the expurgation of Don Quixote's library in Chapter 6 of Part I of Don Quixote.

This book was known by the English man of letters Samuel Johnson; see Eithne Henson, “The Fictions of Romantick Chivalry”: Samuel Johnson and Romance, London and Toronto 1992, and John Hardy, "Johnson and Don Bellianis [sic]," Review of English Studies, new series, vol. 17 (1966), pp. 297–299.

Binary symmetric channel

A binary symmetric channel (or BSC) is a common communications channel model used in coding theory and information theory. In this model, a transmitter wishes to send a bit (a zero or a one), and the receiver receives a bit. It is assumed that the bit is usually transmitted correctly, but that it will be "flipped" with a small probability (the "crossover probability"). This channel is used frequently in information theory because it is one of the simplest channels to analyze.

Bleep censor

A bleep censor is the replacement of a profanity or classified information with a beep sound (usually a 1000 Hz tone ) in television and radio.

Domenico Gerosolimitano

Domenico Gerosolimitano (sometimes spelled Dominico Irosolimitano), originally Rabbi Samuel Vivas of Jerusalem, (fl. 1590s) was a notable ecclesiastical censor of Hebrew books. His Sefer Hazikkuk, the Hebrew equivalent of Index Expurgatorius, played an important role in the censorship of Hebrew books in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Douglas Crockford

Douglas Crockford is an American computer programmer and entrepreneur who is involved in the development of the JavaScript language. He popularized the data format JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), and has developed various JavaScript related tools such as JSLint and JSMin. He is currently a senior JavaScript architect at PayPal, and is also a writer and speaker on JavaScript, JSON, and related web technologies.


A euphemism is an innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant. Some euphemisms are intended to amuse, while others use bland, inoffensive terms for concepts that the user wishes to downplay. Euphemisms may be used to mask profanity or refer to taboo topics such as disability, sex, excretion, or death in a polite way.

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel by American writer Ray Bradbury, first published in 1953. Often regarded as one of his best works, the novel presents a future American society where books are outlawed and "firemen" burn any that are found. The book's tagline explains the title: "Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns..." The lead character, Guy Montag, is a fireman who becomes disillusioned with his role of censoring literature and destroying knowledge, eventually quitting his job and committing himself to the preservation of literary and cultural writings.

The novel has been the subject of interpretations focusing on the historical role of book burning in suppressing dissenting ideas for change. In a 1956 radio interview, Bradbury said that he wrote Fahrenheit 451 because of his concerns at the time (during the McCarthy era) about the threat of book burning in the United States. In later years, he described the book as a commentary on how mass media reduces interest in reading literature.In 1954, Fahrenheit 451 won the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature and the Commonwealth Club of California Gold Medal. It later won the Prometheus "Hall of Fame" Award in 1984 and a "Retro" Hugo Award, one of only seven Best Novel Retro Hugos ever given, in 2004. Bradbury was honored with a Spoken Word Grammy nomination for his 1976 audiobook version.Adaptations of the novel include François Truffaut's 1966 film adaptation and a 1982 BBC Radio dramatization. Bradbury published a stage play version in 1979 and helped develop a 1984 interactive fiction computer game titled Fahrenheit 451, as well as a collection of his short stories titled A Pleasure to Burn. HBO released a television film based on the novel and written and directed by Ramin Bahrani in 2018.

Fig leaf

The expression "fig leaf" is widely used figuratively to convey the covering up of an act or an object that is embarrassing or distasteful with something of innocuous appearance, a metaphorical reference to the Biblical Book of Genesis in which Adam and Eve used fig leaves to cover their nudity after eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Some paintings and statues have the genitals of their subjects covered by a representation of an actual fig leaf or similar object, either as part of the work or added afterwards for perceived modesty.

Global Flatline

Global Flatline is the seventh album by death metal band Aborted. It was released on January 20, 2012, in Europe, through Century Media Records. The album was recorded at Hansen Studios in Denmark with producer Jacob Hansen, and is the first to feature ex-Abigail Williams members Ken Bedene on drums and Mike Wilson on guitar, as well as bassist J.B. Van Der Wal.

The songs "Coronary Reconstruction", "From a Tepid Whiff" and "Grime" all previously appeared on the band's 2010 EP Coronary Reconstruction. The first single, "Global Flatline", was released digitally on October 25, 2011.

Henry Channon

Sir Henry Channon (7 March 1897 – 7 October 1958), often known as Chips Channon, was an American-born British Conservative politician, author and diarist. Channon moved to England in 1920 and became strongly anti-American, feeling that American cultural and economic views threatened traditional European and British civilisation. He wrote extensively about these views. Channon quickly became enamoured of London society and became a social and political climber.

Channon was first elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) in 1935. In his political career he failed to achieve ministerial office and was unsuccessful in his pursuit of a peerage, but he is remembered as one of the most famous political and social diarists of the 20th century. His diaries have so far been published only in an expurgated edition.

Krupiński Coal Mine

The Krupiński coal mine is a large mine in the south of Poland in Suszec, Silesian Voivodeship, 448 km south-west of the capital, Warsaw. Krupiński represents one of the largest coal reserve in Poland having estimated reserves of 34.8 million tonnes of coal. The annual coal production is around 3 million tonnes. The mine is based in Suszec, the deposits of which are located in the commune of Suszec, Żory and Orzesze in the Silesian Voivodeship. Employment at the end of 2011 amounted to 2819 employees. March 31, 2017 production in the mine was shut down and the plant was transferred to the Spółka Restrukturyzacji Kopalń in Bytom. This company is liquidating and managing the assets of liquidated mines.

Library Bill of Rights

The Library Bill of Rights is the American Library Association's statement expressing the rights of library users to intellectual freedom and the expectations the association places on libraries to support those rights. The Association's Council has adopted a number of interpretations of the document applying it to various library policies.

London Journal

James Boswell's London Journal is a published version of the daily journal he kept between the years 1762 and 1763 while in London. Along with many more of his private papers, it was found in the 1920s at Malahide Castle in Ireland, and was first published in 1950, in an edition by Frederick A. Pottle. In it, Boswell, then a young Scotsman of 22, visits London for his second time. One of the most notable events in the journal is Boswell's meeting on 16 May, 1763 Samuel Johnson, the famous writer, moralist, and lexicographer with whom Boswell would form a close relationship, eventually writing the biography The Life of Samuel Johnson.

The journal relates with much detail and candour his frequent and casual use of prostitutes. One of the more notorious events related is Boswell's meeting his mistress Louisa, whom he believes has given him gonorrhea:

BOSWELL. Pray, Madam, in what state of health have you been in for some time?

LOUISA. Sir, you amaze me.

BOSWELL. I have but too strong, too plain reason to doubt of your regard. I have for some days observed the symptoms of disease, but was unwilling to believe you so very ungenerous. But now, Madam, I am thoroughly convinced.

LOUISA. Sir, you have terrified me. I protest I know nothing of the matter.

BOSWELL. Madam, I have had no connection with any woman but you these two months. I was with my surgeon this morning, who declared I had got a strong infection, and that she from whom I had it could not be ignorant of it. Madam, such a thing in this case is worse than from a woman of the town, as from her you may expect it. You have used me very ill. I did not deserve it. You know you said where there was no confidence, there was no breach of trust. But surely I placed some confidence in you. I am sorry that I was mistaken.

LOUISA. Sir, I will confess to you that about three years ago I was very bad. But for these fifteen months I have been quite well. I appeal to GOD Almighty that I am speaking true; and for these six months I have had to do with no man but yourself.

BOSWELL. But by G-D, Madam, I have been with none but you, and here am I very bad.

LOUISA. Well, Sir, by the same solemn oath I protest that I was ignorant of it.

BOSWELL. Madam, I wish much to believe you. But I own I cannot upon this occasion believe a miracle.

LOUISA. Sir, I cannot say more to you. But you will leave me in the greatest misery. I shall lose your esteem. I shall be hurt in the opinion of everybody, and in my circumstances.

BOSWELL (to himself). What the devil does the confounded jilt mean by being hurt in her circumstances? This is the grossest cunning. But I won't take notice of that at all. — Madam, as to the opinion of everybody, you need not be afraid. I was going to joke and say that I never boast of a lady's favours. But I give you my word of honour that you shall not be discovered.

LOUISA. Sir, this is being more generous than I could expect.

The London Journal was but one of various journals written by Boswell, now gathered into a number of published volumes, but it is the only one whose material had not undergone extensive familial expurgation in the 19th century, and so it retained the racy material that made the London Journal an astonishing best seller on its publication. Fundamentally an "academic book," it sold over a million copies when it appeared as the first of the Yale Boswell publications in 1950. The manuscript was re-edited and comprehensively annotated in a new edition for Penguin Classics, by Gordon Turnbull, the general editor of the Yale Boswell Editions, in 2010.

Pope Clement IV

Pope Clement IV (Latin: Clemens IV; 23 November 1190 – 29 November 1268), born Gui Foucois (Latin: Guido Falcodius; French: Guy de Foulques or Guy Foulques) and also known as Guy le Gros (French for "Guy the Fat"; Italian: Guido il Grosso), was bishop of Le Puy (1257–1260), archbishop of Narbonne (1259–1261), cardinal of Sabina (1261–1265), and Pope from 5 February 1265 until his death. His election as pope occurred at a conclave held at Perugia that lasted four months while cardinals argued over whether to call in Charles of Anjou, the youngest brother of Louis IX of France, to carry on the papal war against the Hohenstaufens. Pope Clement was a patron of Thomas Aquinas and of Roger Bacon, encouraging Bacon in the writing of his Opus Majus, which included important treatises on optics and the scientific method.

Queen Victoria's journals

Queen Victoria's journals are the personal diaries and journals kept by Queen Victoria. She maintained them throughout her life, filling 122 volumes which were expurgated after her death by her youngest daughter. Extracts were published during her life and sold well. The collection is stored in the Royal Archives and, in 2012, was put online in partnership with the Bodleian Libraries.

Statute Law Revision Act

Statute Law Revision Act is a stock short title which was formerly used in the United Kingdom, and is still used in Australia, Canada and in the Republic of Ireland, for legislation whose purpose is statute law revision. Such Acts normally repealed legislation which was either obsolete in the sense of being no longer relevant, or spent in the sense of having ceased to be in force otherwise than by virtue of formal repeal (for example because the Act was only in force for a particular time or purpose which has expired). In the United Kingdom, the short title Statute Law (Repeals) Act is now used instead. "Statute Law Revision Acts" may collectively refer to enactments with this short title.

The single biggest Statute Law Revision Act in any jurisdiction was the Statute Law Revision Act 2007 enacted in Ireland which repealed 3,225 previous Acts. The Statute Law Revision programme commenced in Ireland in 2003 which has resulted in four Statute Law Revision Acts to date (see below) and the express repeal of a total of around 8,000 Acts is the largest statute law revision programme carried out internationally.Statute Law Revision Acts are sometimes referred to as expurgation Acts.

The Family Shakespeare

The Family Shakespeare (at times titled The Family Shakspeare) is a collection of expurgated Shakespeare plays, edited by Thomas Bowdler and his sister Henrietta ("Harriet"), intended to remove any material deemed too racy, blasphemous, or otherwise sensitive for young or female audiences, with the ultimate goal of creating a family-friendly rendition of Shakespeare's plays. However, despite this mission, The Family Shakespeare is most often cited in modern times as a negative example of literary censorship, despite its original family-friendly intentions. The Bowdler name is also the origin of the term "bowdlerize", meaning to omit parts of a work on moral grounds.The first edition of The Family Shakespeare was published in 1807 in four duodecimo volumes, covering 20 plays. In 1818 a second edition was published, containing all 36 available plays in 10 volumes.

Word taboo

Word taboo, also called taboo language, language taboo or linguistic taboo is a kind of taboo that involves restricting the use of words or other parts of language due to social constraints. This may be due to a taboo on specific parts of the language itself (such as certain words, or sounds), or due to the need to avoid a taboo topic. The taboo against naming the dead in parts of the world is an example. Taboo words are commonly avoided with euphemisms, such as the English euphemism pass away, meaning "die". It is a common source of neologisms and lexical replacement.

Media regulation
By country


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