Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Every so often things happen in the US that have good, sensible Americans crouching in strained embarrassment, such as the recent objections, led by 'conservative' crackpot librarian Dana Nilsson, of Durango, Colorado, to the use of the word 'scrotum' in the Newbery Medal-winning children's book The Higher Power of Lucky, by the much more level-headed librarian Susan Patron. Ms Nilsson believes that words such as scrotum have no place in 'quality literature'; I wonder what she would have made of Joyce's use of 'bilvalve' as imagery for the female pudendum (later stolen by Saul Bellow). I first learned the word 'scrotum' from one Billy Connolly, when I was about ten, though I admit I was not really part of the target audience. Last chicken in Sainsbury's was how Connolly introduced it to us, and for a couple of years we probably pronounced it only with a rolled Scots 'r'. I can understand how 10-year-olds should be protected from certain words, but is scrotum really so nefarious? And Dana Nilsson might be a bit shocked to discover that many kids that age already know what penises and vaginas are, without having had abusive experiences.