Dirty Words in Popular Woodworking Magazine

Reader Herb Wofford writes: With the downturn in the economy and prices going up I have been considering which woodworking magazine(s) I will have to for go. Until the latest issue, Popular Woodworking Magazine was not being considered, but now I will not renew my subscription.

Personally, I take offense to language that I consider inappropriate. And your editorial stating that you will do your %$##est and then to see in big bold letters the inappropriate use of the word for donkey made up my mind, along with the content and future content of the magazine.

I by no means have virgin ears. I spent four years in the military and worked around men and women who could use some of the foulest language, but I never thought it would show up in a magazine that I looked forward to receiving. I realize you were quoting someone in the back article, but did the word have to be so bold? I let my 12 year old grandson read these, and yes I am sure he hears these words at school. But you see, I am trying to set an example for him; you can communicate intelligently without using profanity.

I am 63 years old and my father is 87. To this day, I have never heard him say one cuss word, and he spent 21 years in the Army. He had enough respect for my mother that he would not allow her to come into where he worked for the foul language. And I might add, my children and my grandchildren have never heard me cuss; I do not.

My time with your magazine has been wonderful and rewarding. I will miss the excellent articles of making furniture. Should you in the future decide to go back to the original format and leave out offensive words, let me know for I will renew my subscription.

– Herb Wofford

Editor Christopher Schwarz responds: Sorry you felt that way. In the 13 years I’ve been here, that has been the one time we’ve used that word in print. (“End Grain,” April 2010, “Put Yer Ass Into It” by Roy Underhill.) I thought it was justified, germane and fairly mild compared to the language on television (not to mention the Internet).

We’re not changing our policy on language – that is, you won’t see it become a habit. But when presented with a story like the one Roy Underhill wrote, I thought it was appropriate.

Thank you for your letter.

– Christopher Schwarz

29 thoughts on “Dirty Words in Popular Woodworking Magazine

  1. Dominic Greco

    I said it before and I’ll say it again. I though the article was hilarious and would love to see more of this kind of INNOCENT humor.

    Please keep up the good work!

  2. Rick Gayle

    Surely those who disagree with Mr. Wofford can do so without mocking him or by denigrating him with the word to which he objects. He is allowed his opinion and his decision to not renew; everyone else is allowed theirs, likewise. When you attack the person, you have run out of valid arguments.
    Rick Gayle

  3. GMan

    Really, is all this discussion necessary. It’s a word and holds no more meaning than one is willimg to give it. Words can only be offensive if you let them.

  4. John Sisler

    WTF?Wofford is far too liberal in his understanding, and far too generous in his taking you to task for corrupting the youth of our nation. I am packing up my several years worth of back issues of both Popular Woodworking and Woodworking magazines, the books,my copies of the special issues, my copy of The Jointer and Cabinetmaker, my Lost Art Press tee-shirt, all of the tools that I purchased after finding out about their worth from any and all of your publications,project plans, and the work bench I built (a combination of the English bench and the Rubio) that I dearly loved until this issue came up- I’m packing all this up and shipping it to you freight collect and expect a full and complete refund and reimbursement.
    Now we’re even for the epoxy and plane joke- don’t change a damned thing.
    JM Sisler

  5. Doug T.

    While I do not consider myself a "prude", I do yearn for the decorum of the time of my youth. It seems that all the barriers that use to establish boundaries in times gone by, are now mostly removed. I think the question should always be asked "will this verbiage enhance or in any way make the article better?" Therein lies the answer, IMHO.

    As someone who is a subscriber to PW and has spent money on Christopher Schwartz’s books, he seems to have become quite intransigent on this matter and the complaint about the erroneous dimensions on the recent piece in the magazine – somewhat disappointing.


  6. Eric Madsen

    Popular Woodworking and it’s editors/writers have personality and a genuineness that comes across in the writing. I used to read all the magazines, but anymore the others just bore me.

    According the the interwebs Roy Underhill is 59 years of age, but he never seems to age. Perhaps his sense of humor keeps him young or maybe it’s clean liv’n, but what ever the reason I thoroughly enjoy his youthful enthusiasm and passion for woodworking! I’ve long been a fan of his show, and I look forward to reading more of his contributions in your magazine. I would thank him for all he’s done to preserve and introduce woodworking to younger generations through his books, PBS show, and now his school. The fact that you’ve secured him as a contributor only affirms to me your quality editorial instincts and tastes.


  7. Jerry Olson

    I’m of Herbs generation and for the life of me I cannot understand how he could be offended. Watching any TV program these days brings up much more course language not to mention the Movies ("Inglogious Bastards").
    I throughly enjoy reading your blogs, articles, books, DVD’s etc. Keep up the good work.

  8. bill

    I think Mr. Wofford has a standard of decency that was a fairly common cultural norm in ages past. I too have wondered to what degree a woodworking magazine should be mimicking the culture, which (at least for anyone with grandparents or some historical sense) is sinking pretty low.

    And I must admit that sometimes, except for the occasional innuendo that creeps into his writing, Chris does sound a bit like my 15 year old son. I guess it’s an attempt to appeal to that generation that motivates the off-color stuff in his writing. That said, I think it dumbs down the magazine and the blog and serves no useful purpose.

  9. kerry doyle

    Mr. Wofford’s comment is a reflection on a lack of sense of humor as well as a rigid dogma regarding the definition of profanity. In this instance, ‘ass’ is used in a coloquial or vernacular manner, not as a profanity or epithet. Ass in this context symbolizes more than just a vulgar word for bottom; it symbolizes one’s bottom plus as much extra muscle as one can muster, much as a (donkey) would when urged to pull.
    You’d better watch out talking about ‘butt’ joints or any other number of words with possible offensive meanings.

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