I love the word bowdlerize-not because I love censoring (to bowdlerize is to censor/expurgate materials), but because I love the story behind this word’s origin.
The word bowdlerize comes from the man Thomas Bowdler, who, in the early 1800’s, found Shakespeare’s ribald innuendos so appalling that he published The Family Shakespeare –a censored version of Shakespeare’s plays more appropriate for women and children. He later did the same with The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (“Thomas Bowdler”). While I disapprove of Bowdler’s actions, I am fascinated by the fact that there is a vocabulary word based on his actions!
I joke with my students about what it would mean to “Resslerize” a text (I go by Ms. Ressler in the classroom). I tease that I would simply add extra vocabulary to a text rather than take words away.
So this week I challenge you to have your students “-ize” a text according to their favorite vocabulary words and their own similes.
First, have all students pick their top 5 vocabulary words from the year. Then, have them think about what makes someone lovely or ugly and write down three similes for pretty and three for ugly. Then give every student a copy of my Bowdlerize Your Vocabulary Handout (which features a Shakespearean sonnet) and use their similes and their favorite vocabulary words to rewrite Shakespeare’s sentiments as their own, then call their work the “_________(last name)-ized” version of the texts.
This method can work with any text-fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose, and kids will definitely buy in because they are personalizing tough texts. You can appreciate that your students are expressing complex thoughts in new and interesting ways.