Definition of bowdlerize
- bowdlerize the text
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bowdlerize a classic novel by removing offensive language
a bowdlerized version of “Gulliver's Travels” that purportedly makes it unobjectionable for children
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Few editors have achieved the notoriety of Thomas Bowdler. Bowdler was trained as a physician, but when illness prevented him from practicing medicine, he turned to warning Europeans about unsanitary conditions at French watering places. He then carried his quest for purification to literature, and in 1818 he published his Family Shakspeare [sic], a work in which he promised that "those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family." The sanitized volume was popular with the public of the day, but literary critics denounced his modifications of the words of the Bard. Bowdler applied his literary eraser broadly, and within 11 years of his death in 1825, the word bowdlerize was being used to refer to expurgating books or other texts.
First Known Use: 1826See Words from the same year
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