When the TV series Monty Python’s Flying Circus was first aired on a major U.S. network, the executives decided that it was a bit crude for delicate American sensibilities and it should be censored in several places. In one instance, the original soundtrack said: “They washed their arms, they washed their legs and they washed their naughty bits.”
The U.S. censors felt it was prudent to bleep the offensive term “naughty bits.” So the American audience heard “they washed their… bleep.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but my mind filled in the beep with something a bit more questionable than “naughty bits.”
I thought of this today when I came across a review for my Reader’s Digest book “Don’t Screw It Up.” It was an overall positive review, which I appreciate. The only reservations the blogger had to the book were to what I shall term its “naughty bits.” She referred to this as “implied profanity.” I can tell you I’ll be dumbfounded if I can imagine what kind of profanity I implied in the book, but I wrote it a while ago and I haven’t read it recently.
It might be instructive here to give you an idea of what kind of book this is. Here is the publisher’s description:
Learning from failure is an effective—and entertaining—way to make information stick. This fun and engaging guide showcases hundreds of common screw-ups and how to avoid them. Do you know how to tie your shoe? Or do you just think you do but you’ve actually been screwing it up for decades like most people? This witty, light book takes a fresh spin on all the mistakes we make everyday that end up costing us big in our wallets, our health, our homes, and beyond. Topics covered are Yourself (appearance, skills, all things you), Your Home, Your Cooking, Your Money, Your Relationships & Family, and Your Health. This perfect combination of humor and wisdom entertains readers as they learn how to make their lives better by avoiding and remedying common screw-ups.
Is it possible that I or the editorial department in our quest to avoid the repetitive use of the term “screw-up” implied we were thinking of replacing the first word with one that started with f? That would be a fine cock-a-doodle-doo.
I’m having fun with the idea of implied naughtiness here, but that wouldn’t have inspired me to write. Here’s the quote from the review that caught my attention:
“The second (concern) was an entry on kissing; I’m sure that it’s not graphic by today’s standards, but I wouldn’t want my child reading it.”
This is what I wonder: “Don’t Screw It Up” is not in any way marketed as a book for kids. (If it were, dispensing advice to them on how to drive a stick shift or chop down a tree would be highly irresponsible.)
Does the reviewer believe that all books should be written with a child’s sensibilities in mind? Wouldn’t we all be a bit impoverished if our literature never tackled themes beyond the 6th grade level?
So, that’s why I wrote today, to pose this question. Now, just to avoid creating a “naughty bits” situation of my own and allowing you to imagine my kissing entry is much more racy than it is, I will share with you– from memory– the gist of its content.
The entry in question was based largely on a survey that asked men and women what they liked and disliked when their partners kissed them. It turns out there was a significant gender difference in the responses. Men seem to enjoy more tongue activity than women do. Thus, I recommend (along with some other tips) that if a boy-person and a girl-person want to kiss each other a certain amount of compromise is in order for both to finish with a warm glow.
I actually wrote a lot of entries that didn’t make it into the final book. At some point I might go through and figure out which ended up on the cutting room floor and post them here or on my non-fiction blog Broke is Beautiful.