18 February 2007

Are You Feeling Lucky?

The children's book world is buzzing over some librarians’ complaints about this year’s Newbery Medal winner, The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron, and its use of the word “scrotum” in chapter 1. As Monica Edinger wrote at Educating Alice, “How very, very sad that it wasn’t winning the Newbery that propelled Susan Patron to the front page of the New York Times, but a bunch of jittery librarians.” For exasperated grumbling rather than regret, see AS IF.

My own personal take: Lucky, this book’s heroine, learns the word “scrotum” at the age of ten, from hearing about an unlucky dog’s rattlesnake bite. Despite actually having the body part in question, I don’t recall hearing that word until I was a few years older.

Of course, I knew multiple words for its contents--an anatomical word for polite conversation, an everyday word, and a somewhat impolite slang term--so I got along just fine. As Lucky says, the word “scrotum,” with the grinding consonants at its start and its neuter ending, sounds like it should refer to something else. So the book might end up having educational value.

Incidentally, according to Colonial Williamsburg, when John Newbery himself sold copies of his Little Pretty Pocket-Book, boys could ask for their copies to come with balls.


Anonymous said...

Let's not exaggerate. "Come with ball," please.

J. L. Bell said...

And after I so carefully wrote that final sentence in plurals?