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The shocking final word — I declare a contest.

Some librarian got her knickers in a twist about the word “scrotum” appearing in the latest Newbery award-winning children’s novel:

“The Higher Power of Lucky” is the story of a 10-year-old girl in rural California and her quest for “Higher Power.” The opening chapter includes a passage about a man “who had drunk half a gallon of rum listening to Johnny Cash all morning in his parked ’62 Cadillac, then fallen out of the car when he saw a rattlesnake on the passenger seat biting his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.”

Librarians have been debating whether “scrotum” was an appropriate word for young readers, especially from a book with the Newbery seal.

Librarians Debate Award-Winning Novel

What’s funny is that people were not shocked by the appearance, in a children’s book, of a passage about a man drinking half a gallon of rum while listening to Johnny Cash all morning in his Cadillac. Instead, they are shocked by the very last word.

So I propose a challenge. Try writing a really shocking sentence that could appear in a children’s book, and cap it off with an ordinary English word, but do it in such a way that ignorant people will get outraged about the final word and completely ignore the sentence preceding it.

Some examples to get you started:

“My kid sister Veronica used to hang out by the train tracks, letting the hoboes feel her up in exchange for swigs of whiskey from their canteens, but stopped after one of them died of angina.”

“I spent the morning of my junior high school graduation binging on Ho-Hos and puking them back up by sticking my finger down my throat and tickling my uvula.”

“My fifth grade teacher, Mr. Festerhazen, was a drunk, couldn’t spell, taught Creationism in class, and when it came to giving out grades, he was really niggardly.”

I’m sure you can do better. In fact, let’s make this a contest. Post your examples in the comments here. I’ll give a copy of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator — a rollicking, entertaining, flawed, and quite politically incorrect sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — to the best entry posted here before midnight on February 28, 2007. As a bonus: If you are a writer and get a similarly offensive sentence into a published children’s book, send me a copy and I’ll buy you a half gallon of fine rum plus a Johnny Cash CD.


  1. Scot Hacker

    Mr. and Mrs. Brown were rich. Filthy rich. They had raised 13 children in a squatter’s tenement on the south side of town, were the children subsisted on a diet of government cheese and stale Cheerios. The kids had rarely seen the light of day, except when let out early mornings to dumpster dive for recyclable bottles and cans (though even then they were restrained by heavy chains and choke collars). Few of the kids could speak more than a few words, and none of them could read or write. But finally, the kids were free of their miserable existences, and the Browns were rich. The children had all been sold into the international sex trade. … Emma Mae Brown’s newly adopted Greek caretakers were trying to think of an ideal name to give their new daughter. Something rich with history and meaning, but also kind of sexy. The naming challenge was turning out more difficult than expected. “Sappho?” “Venus?” “Syphillis?”

  2. Dylan

    Well, Scot, no one else was brave enough to step up to my challenge. Either that or my examples were just so appalling that people were too horrified to play. Either way, you win! I’ll send a copy of the book your way this week, via Amazon. Congrats!

  3. Scot Hacker

    Dylan, honestly, I think all of your examples were better than mine. And in retrospect, I think my example failed the sniff test. If you insist, I’ll take the book, but I’m not sure I deserve it… (‘specially given that I had no competition).

  4. Kit

    Dylan, your examples were hilarious; I don’t think I could come up with one if I had all day.

    Scot, dunno about now, but back in the day yours would have flunked the Uptight Librarian Test before ever getting to ‘syphillis’ on account of the word ::gasp:: ‘sexy’. 🙂

  5. Robert

    Sorry, Dylan. I’ve been so swamped with my own ridiculous life that I haven’t had time to visit your blog for the last few weeks. Otherwise, I would have tossed my own contender into the ring. So in the spirit of fun, here’s one:

    “Charlie’s family was so poor that his father used to turn him out to blow old men at the movie theater on weekends, even though Charlie wasn’t actually gay.”

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