Warning! Explicit.

The other day I was buying a cd on Amazon (yup, we older folks still buy whole cds instead of individual songs–I just like having something to hold in my hand and look at), and I was surprised to see the word “explicit” next to a couple of songs from a band that I did not think of as…well, that kind of band. Of course the explicit part wasn’t available to play as a sample on Amazon, so I went ahead and bought the cd. Turns out the “explicit” referred to the casual use of what we call the “f-word” on two songs, not in a nasty way, but more as another way of saying “Don’t mess around.” That was it! But someone’s rules required that this be labeled.

I am constantly horrified at the violent and twisted stuff we get exposed to on TV without any warning, even through ads. (Just check out some of the trailers for Halloween movies that are airing now!) Why isn’t anyone worried about that?  But, bringing this closer to the point of Wing’s World, what about “explicit” language in YA books? As a writer, I always have to walk the line between what’s authentic and what will make an editor say, “I can’t sell this to young teens!”

What’s ok? What isn’t? In my book, for example, I use “pissed” but not “asshole,” and I’m still nervous enough about the stronger words to refer to them here only as “s-word” and “f-word.” But WHY? Is this being realistic? Appropriate? Silly?

Bottom line: should there be certain language that is not ok to use for books 10-12 year-olds might read, even though it’s ok for 13 year-olds?  If so, what words–and more importantly, WHY?

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