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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Has Book Publishing Gone to Sh*t?

I recently conducted a search on Amazon by  typing in the word “shit” and over 10,000 book titles popped up. Who knew the book industry loves crap?  Here is a sampling of some of the titles that come up:

  • Shit My Dad Says
  • How To Shit In The Woods
  • Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit?
  • My Shit Life So Far
  • When A Fan Hits The Shit
  • How To Shit Around The World
  • Shit Magnet
  • Holy Shit
  • Zombies And Shit!

Do you realize how many ways you can use the “s” word  -- and probably do? Witness these fine, real-life examples:

  • I had a shitty day.
  • That guy was a shithead.
  • I have to take a shit.
  • She doesn’t give a shit.
  • He looked shitfaced.
  • I am not shittin’ you.
  • Move that shit out of the way.
  • Clean up that shit.
  • It tasted like shit.
  • You are shit-out-of luck.
  • It’s shitty timing.
  • Get the shit out and get moving.
  • He has shit for brains.
  • He thinks his shit doesn’t stink.
  • She is full of shit.

The list goes on. I am sure Dr. Seuss would have done a rhyming book of all the wonderful things he can do with the word shit if he were alive today. There is, of course, the hot “children’s” book, Go The F**k to Sleep, but I don’t think they use the word shit. There’s also a celebrity-authored book about butts, called Culo.  Who knew publishing embraced potty talk?

Actually, there is a long history of books being published that contain x-rated images, blue language, and story lines centered on erotica, raunch, and decadence. Cable-TV makes a living off of this, so why not the book industry too? Heck, even on the Today Show the other day (in the 7:00 AM hour) I heard Matt Lauer quote an Ashton Kutcher Tweet that said the word “ass.” Colorful language seems to have invaded all forms of entertainment and media.

Okay, I have a confession to make. I let my kids say the word “shit” and I even laugh when they say it, probably further promoting its use. They are six and three years old.  

Have I permanently corrupted their young minds? Does this make me a bad parent and/or a bad person? Should I get an intervention from the many parenting authors that I represent? Have I let my love of language go too far?

I realize kids are going to pick up on what they hear – at school, at a friend’s house, on TV, and elsewhere, and of course, where possible, I will intervene and correct them if they attempt to use curse words and inappropriate language. But I also realize that they will learn from my wife and me directly. They will parrot our words and although I try to be careful around them, I have given up on trying to censor every word that comes out of my mouth. One word that leaks out quite often is the word “shit.”

So, as a strategic measure, I don’t shy away from the word. I even try to minimize its influence by using the word in a joking way with them. Hey, the word is in the dictionary and they will hear it somewhere from someone eventually, if not regularly, so why not just go with it?

Now, don't get me wrong. They don't say it every day or use it in every other utterance the way many adults do. But the word is part of their vocabulary.

As a parent we want to set good examples, but we are only human. For that, I cannot apologize. As a society, we want the next generation to get a fresh start but society's legacy dictates that though certain words will be shunned or labeled as "bad" those same words will be embraced by pop culture's youth, perhaps because they have been labeled as naughty.

Most parents would not dare cop to admitting they let their kids say “shit” but why should we shy away from it? They will learn these words eventually. Isn’t it better they do it at home and then learn the proper way to use them? Must I discipline every word and action that I hear and see or is there wiggle room here to let one word slip through the cracks?

How is one to suddenly stop using a word that so perfectly captures what one feels, thinks, and knows to be true? I guess I have shit for brains, but my kids seem to respond favorably to my use of the poopy word. There are times when my son says the word, jokingly, and my daughter, my youngest, at just three and a half, corrects him and says “Hey, that’s bathroom talk and we don’t talk that way.” I applaud her and then she comes back with some news on how she feels about the lunch I just made her: “Ok dad, but I don’t want to eat that. It tastes like shit.”

I try to scold them, give them a time out, explain why they shouldn’t say it, etc., but sometimes I just throw up my hands and realize they are learning to use words correctly in a sentence and they speak so clearly and accurately, so who could be prouder? I guess if they spoke this way in public or to relatives I would be mortified but so  far they have contained their clubhouse talk to just us.

They seem to use the word less often than since the time it got introduced to them. Maybe the power of a word fades from overuse or because it loses its taboo cache. Perhaps it’s a phase they will grow out of. Perhaps it will get worse and they will have gutter mouths like a comedian. Only time will tell.

Then the shit will really hit the fan.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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