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Butt!

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Hi,

I would like to use "butt" in a funny phrase that recurs a bunch of times in a PB I'm writing.

"Butt" seems to be okay today for all age groups, even 3-5 year-olds. Do you see any problem with using it in a story for young children?

Thanks,
Gatz
#1 - October 18, 2013, 10:59 AM
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As a writer I want to say it's fine, but as a mom of a 3.5 year old I must admit I don't let my daughter say "butt." I could be the exception though - my parents wouldn't let me say it as a kid (in the 70s). I'd say just be aware that a few parents might steer clear of a PB that highlights that  term.
#2 - October 18, 2013, 11:07 AM
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At the SCBWI Carolina's conference a few weeks ago, they did a First Impressions panel where attendees could submit the first 200 words of a story. The panelists then read a random selection of these out loud  to the packed room, and commented on them.

One of the submissions was a PB text that used the word "butt" repeatedly. When the reader reached the end of the text, the ENTIRE ROOM burst into applause. It was the only entry that garnered applause.

Of course, that wasn't *because* of the word "butt". It was a clever and well written manuscript. But it does show that a PB text can get a great reaction even with that word in there. If there's a reason for you to use the word "butt" -- meaning it contributes something to the story other than shock/gross-out value, and the story just wouldn't be the same without it, I'd say go for it.
#3 - October 18, 2013, 12:34 PM

My two cents' worth...It would keep me from buying it for the kiddo.
#4 - October 18, 2013, 01:08 PM
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It doesn't bother me. There are many more graphic terms for that area of the body! But since it bothers some here, then it would probably bother some others, so it would be up to you to decide how much to take that into consideration.
#5 - October 18, 2013, 01:11 PM

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I discourage my kids from saying 'butt', but mostly because it's usually at the end of the phrase "kick you in the butt".  Now they've started saying "buttocks" instead, and I have a hard time stopping them from saying it because it just makes me laugh.  Buttocks is funnier than butt in my opinion, especially when said by a 3 year old. 
#6 - October 18, 2013, 01:33 PM

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At the SCBWI Carolina's conference a few weeks ago, they did a First Impressions panel where attendees could submit the first 200 words of a story. The panelists then read a random selection of these out loud  to the packed room, and commented on them.

One of the submissions was a PB text that used the word "butt" repeatedly. When the reader reached the end of the text, the ENTIRE ROOM burst into applause. It was the only entry that garnered applause.

Of course, that wasn't *because* of the word "butt". It was a clever and well written manuscript. But it does show that a PB text can get a great reaction even with that word in there. If there's a reason for you to use the word "butt" -- meaning it contributes something to the story other than shock/gross-out value, and the story just wouldn't be the same without it, I'd say go for it.

I was at the same SCBWI conference. I though the "butt" story was hilarious. I don't have kids, but I would buy it for my nephew. BTW - There a popular PB about a flatulent dog so I don't see any reason a "butt" story wouldn't sell. My other nephew has this one... his Nanna bought it for him.
#7 - October 18, 2013, 01:35 PM

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Like Crookedbook, there were language boundaries set in our household when I was young. Butt was bad, and when we were to let our parents know what we needed to do to relieve ourselves, numbers were used in place of words. So in raising my children, I've drawn up a less stringent set of rules. The ones I adhered to were confining.(No smacking or slurping by accident at the table and absolutely no borderline words).

Now, I would by a book with the word butt in it. Yes. On the other side, I didn't buy the book about Walter the dog.

If it's done well, where it's not for the sake of using the word, but enhancing the story as only that one word could do, then I'm on the side of those who are good with it.
#8 - October 18, 2013, 02:03 PM
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 02:05 PM by Cynthia Kremsner »
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There are some popular children's books with the word butt in them, like Chicken Butt by Erica Perl and The Butt Book by Artie Bennett.

Obviously there will be parents that won't buy the book, but that's true of all books. If only I could find the secret for a book that EVERY parent would buy, I'd be set...
#9 - October 18, 2013, 03:01 PM
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I thought the butt guy joined us ... I was at the same Carolinas conference and was thinking, my kids would LOVE this. The execution was pitch perfect.

I recently read this article by Neil Gaiman about supporting libraries, but he goes through a litany of our obligations to our children. He ends with: we have an obligation never, ever, under any circumstances, to write anything for children that we would not want to read ourselves. The full article is here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming 

Happy writing, Gatz.
Vijaya



#10 - October 18, 2013, 03:40 PM
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Just popping by to say, I want to read the Butt Guy's PB now! I wonder if he got a contract... It sounds great if it left such a lasting impression.

We love CHICKEN BUTT in our house, and CINDERELLA'S BOTTOM too. I would, however, probably balk at a PB with arse or ass in the title. But I think a little controversy often helps sales. The word butt won't get you banned but it might generate another talking point for your book (other than its sheer wit and brilliance, of course!)
#11 - October 18, 2013, 04:38 PM

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When you have a question like this, I think a good strategy is to try it out and see how it goes when you submit.
#12 - October 18, 2013, 09:47 PM
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If butt is the only word that will possibly do, then that's the one to use. But I wonder why bum wouldn't work as well? It means the same; all kids know what you're talking about; and it's gentler on the sensibilities. Just because you CAN use a particular word doesn't mean it's the best one to choose.
#13 - October 18, 2013, 10:26 PM
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Thanks, everyone.

The word "butt" is the only one that can be used in this instance, because it's part of a phrase that's used by many mothers and fathers with their kids, usually 5-6 or older. To substitute another word would seem odd. A figurative use, not farting or potty related.

I'll give it a try with the first submission.

Gatz.

#14 - October 18, 2013, 10:55 PM
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I'll be honest, I have a 4.5 and 2.5 year old and I wouldn't read it (and I'd be mad if a teacher read it to them at school).  I think of butt as a baby swear word, along with things like fart (which sounds so much worse than toot when a little kid says it).  We say tush or bottom...even booty is better IMO.  Sorry, I'm assuming that's not what you want to hear.  Just because our house doesn't use it does not mean others don't:). Not sure what phrase many parents use with butt in it...I totally can't think of one!
#15 - October 19, 2013, 06:54 AM
« Last Edit: October 19, 2013, 06:58 AM by bugaboo »
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We also don't say hate or stupid but they are in a ton of PBs.  My kids love Dragons Love Tacos but I've always just substituted "don't like" for hate (which is on every page) and I wish it'd been written that way--it would make life easier!lol. The problem is that kids repeat words and many preschools will move them down the behavior chart for certain words.  My kids read Froggys Halloween and now I'm terrified to send them to preschool for fear they'll tell someone they will pull down their underwear which will probly get ME in trouble!
#16 - October 19, 2013, 08:08 AM
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We don't use "butt" (or stupid or shut up) either. However, Corey Rosen Schwartz's THREE NINJA PIGS is one of our favorite picture books. She only uses butt one time though. I think using it sparingly is ok and has great effect. But if you use the word repeatedly it loses it's taboo power.
#17 - October 19, 2013, 08:13 AM
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It will bother some people. It won't bother others. Depends on the treatment and on what sort of book you want it to be. Probably less likely to be read in schools or libraries, I would think.

Have you read, CHICKEN CHEEKS?

(P.S. I didn't even notice it was used in THREE NINJA PIGS! So I guess it must have felt right.)
#18 - October 19, 2013, 08:19 AM
« Last Edit: October 19, 2013, 08:20 AM by DianaM »
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It will bother some people. It won't bother others. Depends on the treatment and on what sort of book you want it to be. Probably less likely to be read in schools or libraries, I would think.

Have you read, CHICKEN CHEEKS?

(P.S. I didn't even notice it was used in THREE NINJA PIGS! So I guess it must have felt right.)

Yes, CHICKEN CHEEKS! Patootie, tush, caboose, behind, they're all in there.

Bugaboo, you'd prefer BOOTY to butt?! To me booty is a sexual term. I'd be horrified to read that in a picture book.

At the end of the day, though, I think that you've got to write what feels right to you and to the story. You can't avoid something purely because a couple of people think they may be put off by it. Think of NO, DAVID! for example, which has a tonne of off-putting behaviours in it. Hugely popular book series despite that.
#19 - October 19, 2013, 08:58 AM

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With great writing and the right illustrations, it could do magic.

I often go into Amazon and Good Reads to see what people are saying about current published works.  When I look at PB reviews, they shed light on how things that seem small can really strike a bit of fire in someone. "Why was the tractor anthropomorphic?" "The text seemed too simple," "There's too much text. My kids would never sit through all this rambling," and more. Sometimes, the negative reviews spark my curiosity and I will read the books just to see what was so offensive about a P.B. Most of the time, I'm inclined to disagree. I think editors and publishers do a great job when it comes to P.B.'s that may be construed as a bit edgy. They know what will work and when something is taken too far. If a P.B. with edgy subject matter is self published, it may go over the edge, depending on whether or not certain boundaries are observed.

There's a piece I've written with an irreverent character. The humor comes from his irreverence and ultimately, there's a breakthrough moment. It's created love or hate responses . . . mostly good. But, the other responses had me concerned. One of my mentors told me that if the story evokes that much passion in someone, it's good writing.

I'd like to read this Butt story and the one from the conference, if they're not one in the same. :grin3
#20 - October 19, 2013, 10:47 AM
« Last Edit: October 19, 2013, 10:54 AM by Cynthia Kremsner »
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Thanks, again.

The phrase in question is "Get off your butt."

As in, "get up and do something.

Gatz
#21 - October 19, 2013, 10:54 AM
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This might be slightly OT, but this thread made me think of this Youtube video, in which one mom clearly prefers "butt" to a popular alternative: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPztGB8toFU
#22 - October 19, 2013, 11:34 AM

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I'm sorry Gatz, but I wouldn't care for that phrase in a PB, even if it elicits great giggles from kids. There are other phrases to get kids to do something ... and you could have great fun with them.

Cynthia, the butt in the butt book was integral to the story.

Vijaya
#23 - October 19, 2013, 11:41 AM
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Thanks, Vijaya.  Do you know offhand of any commonly used substitutes?

Or maybe I should come up with one myself, one that's fresh and NOT commonly used. That's probably what I should do anyway, as a writer.
#24 - October 19, 2013, 11:56 AM
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Gatz, I loved it when my little ones were quietly reading on the couch! They were so full of energy the rest of the time. Now that they are older, I tell them to get off the computer, get off the kindle, etc. but I don't have a funny thing I say. Usually I invite them for a walk with the dog, or a bike ride, or yardwork (which is not exactly an invitation -- hah!).

Could you have some rhyme? Get off your caboose and shake yourself loose ... or get off your tush and go prune a bush. Okay, these are very lame attempts, but you see where I'm going.

Have fun with your story.
Vijaya

#25 - October 19, 2013, 01:00 PM
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Any reason "bottom" wouldn't work?
#26 - October 19, 2013, 01:10 PM
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I don't think the phrase "Get off your butt" would work for that age group. In my opinion, you should definitely avoid that in a pb. I don't know your character's voice, but perhaps something more like, "Shake a leg!" or "Get a move on!" etc. Even better if you can come up with something fun and original that captures the character's voice or the theme of the book. Vijaya has some fun suggestions.
#27 - October 19, 2013, 01:13 PM
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I'll be honest, I have a 4.5 and 2.5 year old and I wouldn't read it (and I'd be mad if a teacher read it to them at school).  I think of butt as a baby swear word, along with things like fart (which sounds so much worse than toot when a little kid says it).  We say tush or bottom...even booty is better IMO.  Sorry, I'm assuming that's not what you want to hear.  Just because our house doesn't use it does not mean others don't:). Not sure what phrase many parents use with butt in it...I totally can't think of one!

I'm sorry Gatz, but I wouldn't care for that phrase in a PB, even if it elicits great giggles from kids. There are other phrases to get kids to do something ... and you could have great fun with them.

I'm with Bobi about "bum".  "Tushie" is my go-to fanny reference.  Somehow, "butt" just seems so swear-like  when used around and by little children. 

The fact that you're being so thoughtful about this is sweet, Gatz.  I vote for your idea about creating your own, original term.  It would probably be much funnier and more impactful than one of the standards, anyway.

 :carrot
#28 - October 19, 2013, 06:52 PM

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My apologies, guys, for offending you with a figure of speech that was not intended to devalue anyone. I, too, have lived in a trailer at one time in my life and didn't think of myself or any of my neighbors as lesser human beings for doing so. It's nice to know, though, that we have so many sensitive souls among us. I deserved to be called to account for my poorly chosen words.
#29 - October 19, 2013, 07:35 PM
« Last Edit: October 20, 2013, 05:32 PM by Robert »
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I wonder if bum isn't too British? I'd lean to the idea of making something up or coming up with another line that means "shake a leg."
#30 - October 19, 2013, 08:29 PM
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