Expurgation is a form of censorship which involves purging anything deemed noxious or offensive, usually from an artistic work.
Expurgation of sexual or lewd content is also called bowdlerization, especially for books, after Thomas Bowdler, who in 1818 published an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare's work that he considered to be more appropriate for women and children. He similarly edited Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
A work that has been subjected to expurgation is sometimes called a fig-leaf edition, a figurative extension from the older practice of placing fig leaves to hide the genitals of nudes in paintings and statues.
- In 1264, Clement IV ordered the Jews of Aragon to submit their books to Dominican censors for expurgation.
- Montaigne's Essays translated by George B. Ives was published by Harvard University Press in 1925 without the essays pertaining to sex. Called a fig-leaf edition.
- Oil! by Upton Sinclair: A 150-copy fig-leaf edition was prepared for Boston with nine pages blacked out.
- A recent printing of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in which the racially charged word "nigger" (used over 200 times) was changed to "slave".
- Similarly, most editions now published of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (published in the UK in 1939 as Ten Little Niggers) have had expurged from them the term "nigger", including that in the name of the book's main setting, Nigger Island, as well as from its thematic nursery rhyme, which serves as blueprint for the novel's prolific killer. Non-English language editions have more consistently stuck to the original, including the 1987 Soviet film Ten Little Negroes.
- Many Internet message boards and forums use automatic wordfiltering to change offensive words and phrases to more innocuous substitutes. For example, expletives may be replaced with other characters (a series of asterisks is common), or similar-sounding nonsense words.
- 'The Crabfish', an ancient English folk song, was long ignored for its ribald lyrics. In a sanitized version released in 2010 the crabfish grabs the wife by the nose instead of her private parts. This has been parodied in versions where only the offending words have been replaced, with the originals being implied by the rhyme.
- The Nigger of the 'Narcissus', a 19th-century novel by British-Polish author Joseph Conrad is often sold in North America as The Children of the Sea: A Tale of the Forecastle, or The N-Word of the 'Narcissus' due to the racially provocative nature of the original title.
- Popper, William (1889). The Censorship of Hebrew Books. Knickerbocker Press, 13-14.
- Michael C. Bussacco, Heritage Press Sandglass Companion Book: 1960-1983 (Archbald, PA: Tribute Books, 2009), 252, available online, accessed September 23, 2010
- Boston Globe: Jack Curtis, "Blood from oil," February 17, 2008, accessed September 23, 2010
- Mary Craig Sinclair, Southern Belle (NY: Crown Publishers, 1957), 309, available online, accessed September 23, 2010
- Michael Tomasky, "The new Huck Finn" January 7, 2011
- Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript: loose and humorous songs ed. Frederick J. Furnivall. London, 1868
- The Crabfish
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