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. Bill

    I think my subscription expires in August or September, but I might just go ahead and renew early.

    I haven’t read the whole issue yet, but I did read Roy’s story and found it very amusing. The lack of editing was very refreshing in a time when political correctness has taken away our 1st Amendment rights in some circles. I think we as a society need to grow up, get thicker skins, and remember that they’re just words…they don’t hurt.

    BTW, the other articles I’ve read are the ones on Thomas Day and Clark & Williams were excellent. Keep up the good work.

  2. Lou

    Just out of idle curiosity…. Did you ask Mr. Wofford before you posted his letter and your reply? And is there any general guideline as to whether you handle such things in the blog or in print? (I’m assuming you also sent a email response, of course.)

    I’m not trying to provoke anything – I really am simply curious.

    Thanks for everything you print, write, post, blog, engrave, record, publish, and sell. Our lives are enriched by the vast amount of content you folks generate, sell, and give away.

  3. Scott

    Herb’s opinion brings back a memory. I lived in NH in the mid-80s and decided to make a ‘journey’. I found myself in Trinidad, Colo in need of gas and pulled into a small station on the outskirts. The attendant kept looking at the back of my car while filling’er up. He got done and I handed him a $10 (those were the days). He looked back one more time and said "Live Free or Die, huh?" referring to my license plate. "Kinda severe ain’t it?"
    Herb, canceling a subscription to an exceptionally informative and well written publication that has obviously brought you some pleasure in the past because they published what can only be described as a ‘mild’ expletive really is ‘kinda severe ain’t it."
    Kudos for your vigilance of the young. My guess is that you far exceed the norm of good ‘grand-parenting’. But I cannot believe it was the intent (or, even an unitended consequence) of PWM to derail the youngsters among us. You made it through the service and your grandkids will make through life despite the occasional ‘cuss’ word.
    I hope you can sit back and again enjoy PWM some time soon. It would be a real shame to miss it.

  4. Bob DeViney

    I certainly appreciate Mr. Wofford’s concern, though I wouldn’t consider cancelling my subscription unless the content declined in quality or the writing style degenerated into bar room banter. I enjoy a fine ale, and occasionally lose my composure and let fly. But in my working years I considered swearing unprofessional and an impediment to communications. When I read PW I see and hear you at work. My grandkids are safe in the shop and safe with your magazine. Best wishes, Bob

  5. Bubba

    Stick to your guns, Chris. Between the use of "for go" and the affected, pretentious attitude of Mr. Wofford, I think we all now have an excellent example of what an ass is.

  6. Jared

    It has been said, "All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial." I interpret that to mean with great freedom there is great choice, but not all choices are helpful. I’m with Wofford on this, mostly. I would have rather not seen an "ass" reference on the cover. My first thought was of slight disappointment in a cheap eye-catcher headline, rather than letting real content drive the reader. My local library actually hardbounds every issue of Popular Woodworking with the color cover showing, and puts them in the stacks for the world to see. Sure, they’re not next to the childrens books, but is this the trajectory we want to take? Permissible? Sure, but not that beneficial for PW and its readers.

  7. Mattias in Durham, NC

    Writing in support of the publication of Roy’s words. I did take notice when I saw it on the cover, and maybe that wasn’t the greatest decision even if I think it’s harmless. Actually, they weren’t even Roy’s words, but an old WWII vet. More stories and articles by St. Roy, please. Next time maybe the hoop snake story?

  8. Bjenk

    I have to ad my name in the support of Roy Underhill’s story and the magazine. Roy’s story was certainly, in my opinion, the best part of the issue. No offense to the other great editors and authors but Roy’s story was funny and touching.

    I can’t believe anyone would be offended by the use of the word ass in the context it was used.

    More stories from Roy, please!

  9. Terry

    Mr. Wofford’s letter had me laughing my ass off! Perhaps I’ve been living on the ultra-liberal left coast for too long because I didn’t know that level of prudishness still existed. Good for Herb for sticking to his principles, even if most wouldn’t agree with him. And even better for you for not caving to the lowest common denominator.

  10. dave brown

    Wow. Cancelling a subscription over the slang term for gluteus maximus? Sounds like someone was looking for a reason to cancel a subscription — or get their name in print for their 15 minutes of fame.

    Seriously, that’s the best reason to come up with? The last article at the tail-end (ass-end?) of a magazine?

    I found it to be a moment of levity in an increasingly serious world. I’m surprised the catfight at WIA didn’t do it for him last year.

    Megan and Chris: if you don’t let the occasional vulgar word or euphemism get in your pages, I’m canceling my subscription. Or, at least I’ll only renew one year at a time rather than my usual two year renewal.

    sheesh

  11. Bruce Jackson

    Oh H___fire and tarnation! By G_d, the real word is "arse", not a__ which is in The Good Book so many times as a reference to that lowly, much-abused beast of burden we have all become slaving away for The Man! :-j

  12. Jeremy Pringle

    Is this really that big of an issue? I mean, we have bigger issue at hand. And Chris this effects you BIG TIME!!! Of course I had to go and buy your hand plane book, and next thing you know it, I have to go out and buy a block plane, well life was so good with that tool that I took the next step and had to buy a low angeled smoothing plane, when I got home from LV on Saturday, I was asked how much I spent, becuase I had to buy some scrapers and a burnisher as well, and a new wheel marking gauge, my answer was of course "All of it." So I got "Schwarzed", so what! Chris, your ass is in danager, she did not just join Wives Against Schwarz, she opened a NEW chapter!

    And just so you know, Im not allowed to have a throwing axe area either. Something about small children running around? I even told her they would be wearing safety glasses too!!!

  13. Tom

    I respect Mr. Wofford’s opinion, although I don’t really agree with it. I think that, in the present context, the use of "ass" was entirely appropriate and non-offensive.

    On a related note… Where does one draw the line? If "ass" as used in the article is offensive, where on the spectrum does "craptacular" lie?

  14. Robert E Bradley

    I understand the point about the article being funny but still, I agree with the first reader that the word was uncalled for and I was offended by it!

    I will continue to read your magazine, but I hope you will be more caefull of language and also of enuendoe in the future.

    Robert

  15. Hubert Kunnemeyer

    I have to ask,"Is this another one of your jokes?" I know how you have a warped sense of humor. I find it hard to believe that anyone could object to that. It’s absolutely ludicrous to think that the word ass is offensive to anyone.I do try hard not to cuss because a lot of cussing makes people sound ignorant. In my opinion the author of that letter is the ignorant one. Sorry if I offend but c’mon ASS? Jokes on me right?

  16. Karl

    Chris,

    As counterpoint to the comment you published above: I understood Roy’s column as a funny story, largely BECAUSE of the visitor’s terminology. It certainly would not have worked without it.

    And perhaps it is the difference in generations, but I read this column out loud to my family: both of my daughters (6 & 12) were rolling with laughter. It certainly has not seemed to hurt them in the weeks since, nor has it led to a wanton use of profanity. And theY both spent some minutes afterward contemplating the picture of the big wheel that was the centerpiece of the story.

    Thanks to your magazine and to Roy for what for me is a memorable family moment (in spite of, and in part BECAUSE of the use of "that word").

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