I was listening to NPR, and this story comes on about a controversial word written on the first page of a new children's book: scrotum. At first I thought this was a little over exaggerated because scrotum is the anatomically correct name for a male body part, but I am not the parent of a third grader. The book is this year's Newbery Medal winner The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (story link). The author explained that the word was crucial to the overall meaning of the rest of the story, and was not just used to push the envelope of what words are acceptable.
I imagine that the word scrotum was discussed by the author, copyeditors, and editors before publication since it is children’s literature. The story got me thinking, and it seems to relate to Sarah's Risky Business post from last week on the role of diction in writing. I think this is another good example of how changing just one word could have far reaching consequences, and not only in copyeditor—author correspondence. A single word can change the message or vitality of a work, or can upset and offend readers, and this word doesn’t even have to be a four letter word.