Posted by: turtlebella | 18 February 2007

Scrotum is a bad word?! (aka Literary Lunaday one day early)

Today the sqvirrel alerted me to a NYTimes article about a children’s book, The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron, illustrated by Matt Phalen, which is being banned from some school libraries. Now, this book has won a Newberry Medal. As far as I know, the Newberry Medal committee is not a hotbed of commies, pinkos, left-wing radicals. Yet this book, which is geared to kids in grades 4 through 6, has raised some eyebrows and quite a bit of hyperbole.


Because it mentions the word scrotum. Yup, scrotum. Apparently some people think this is a bad word that children should not know. Let’s get this ‘straight.’ The book is not about scrotums (or a single scrotum). The scrotum referenced is on a dog, not a human. I haven’t read the book, but none of the summaries even mention a scrotum. They mention that Lucky is an orphan who lives with her guardian Brigitte in Hard Pan, California (pop. 43). She’s a girl searching for her higher power. (um, hello? Conservatives should be happy- she’s looking for god! More than I did at age 10! During homilies at mass I was busy wondering if there was a god at all) She doesn’t know what a scrotum is, when she overhears the word and wonders what it might be*-

“Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much. It sounded medical and secret, but also important.”

Yup, that’s dangerous alright. Downright Howard Stern-ish (one librarian accuses “them” of Howard Stern shock treatment, I don’t know who she is referring to as “them”). Those fourth graders, they might run right out and have sex. Because let me tell you, there is nothing so sexy as a dog’s scrotum. Especially when it conjurs up images of the green phlegm that emerges from the depths of your respiratory system.

And let’s get another thing straight. Fourth – sixth graders? Yes, they are curious about and perhaps mildly obsessed with sex. Do I have any readers who did not, at that age, spend at least some of their time at the library looking up the word sex in the dictionary and in the World Book Encyclopedia? (Do they still have World Books?) Because I distinctly remember doing both of these things. Yes, it was on the sly and I felt guilty about it (I was Catholic for heaven’s sake, I was required to feel guilty 98.2% of the time). Reading the word scrotum is not going to turn that one kid who isn’t curious about sex into a raging sex addict. Nor is it going to lead to more teenage pregnancies and the subsequent downfall of our civilization (we grown-ups are doing that just fine on our own, thanks).

I had a girlfriend once whose mother was very particular calling various sexual organs by their anatomical names. Vagina. Penis. Like that (but I’m pretty sure scrotum never came up, actually). And my girlfriend? As a grown up she referred to “down there” and “privates” and she couldn’t say the word “sex” out loud. She was a virgin well into adulthood. Now, I’m not saying there’s causation there – clearly (to me), there were a lot of other reasons why my girlfriend was the way she was. But what I’m trying to say is that the word scrotum does not have quite the influence, potency, or persuasiveness that some people are giving to it. Don’t get me wrong, I think words can be wield a great deal of power. I just don’t happen to think that scrotum is a particularly powerful one.

*This reminds me of the story about the love affair between a squirrel and a chipmunk, by David Sedaris. It’s where the sqvirrel gets his name (the ‘v’ is my modification). If you haven’t heard the story, it’s in the This American Life episode called “Star Crossed Love.” Charming, charming, charming, in my opinion.



  1. Oh, I could go off here, but upon reading the article (and the passage with scrotum in it) and musing whether it would be okay for my 10 year old to read it (of course), I just decided that most everybody is off their rockers.

    BTW, I haven’t seen Bridge yet, but the reviews are quite positive. :)

  2. Hey Melissa! I just went back to your Dark is Rising post and saw that you’d left me a link regarding Bridge– thanks!!!

    And I know, sometimes I wonder if people have enough to worry about. I was a little worried as I often am about these kinds of things- blogging about children/parenting without children of my own. But I decided to take the perspective that I was a child once, I remember what it was like! :)

  3. Maybe it’s not so much having enough to worry about as it is stressing too much over the little things. Really, on the scale of 1 to 10, scrotum is probably a 1. Worry about your kid getting run over by a truck, or getting kidnapped. Whether or not she reads scrotum in a book is pretty trivial.

    And don’t worry about your perspective; it’s valid, even if you don’t have kids. :)

  4. Turtle,
    Melissa is right, your point of view of kids is very valid. By the good way you think, you’re already a better parent than hella people who got kids and are pendejos.

    Scrotum is a pretty stupid-sounding word though. Sounds like the way it was used in the book is right. I doubt if the babosos who are all upset are nearly as upset about the deaths of Iraqi children.

  5. Scandalous, abolutely scandalous…

  6. :)

    I know, scrotum, it is a silly sounding word. I mean, saying it over and over just makes one giggle. And not because it’s related to sex and sexuality either!

  7. You people are blind to the negative effect this evil word could have on the children of America. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Clearly, the terrorists have already won the field at this wordpress blog.

  8. Yes I have a lot to be ashamed of but haven’t gotten around to my vocabulary yet. With the Xmas lights still up and the weeds in the back yard not to mention missing mass all last year………..

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