I'm working on some Dilbert strips that will be published in early April. The series will feature a new character that works for the government and looks like a monster. His job is to make the tax code more complicated for no reason, with Dogbert's help of course. My problem is the name I've given this character: Stanky Bathturd.

Newspapers are about thirty years behind network television in terms of what they consider acceptable content for the general public. You can say turd on network television - if you don't say it too often in one episode - but you could never print the word turd in a comic strip that runs in newspapers.

But what about Bathturd? Is that worse than a plain turd, or is it less offensive because I hid the turd with the bath, so to speak?

The genesis of the name was that I was trying to come up with something that reminded the reader of "bastard" without crossing the newspaper decency line. I considered Batherd, Bastord, and other spellings, but none of those felt just right.

Then Bathturd popped into my head. It sounds like bastard but it has the added benefit of sounding like bath-turd. It's doubly offensive, and I call that a homerun.

But can I get away with it?

Some innocent words have turd in them too. Sturdy and Saturday comes to mind. But Bathturd seems worse not only because I intend it to be naughty but because it is preceded by Stanky.  And when you hear the word Bathturd you can imagine a turd floating in your bathtub. That's worse. Case closed, right?

But wait. If my made-up name sounds like two entirely different naughty words - bastard and bath-turd - then it doesn't really refer to either one of those bad words specifically. Can I get off on a technicality? Stranger things have happened in the world of editing.

Complicating this decision is the humor layer. As a general rule, the funnier a comic is, the more you can get away with. I can't show you the comic ahead of time, but assume it's somewhere in my normal range of funniness. Also working in its favor is the crowd-pleasing theme of hating the government's tax system. I can get away with more if every reader agrees with my central point, and I think that would be the case with this one.

So let's say you are my editor and you know there is a 100% chance that a few newspaper clients will reject this comic. That's not the end of the world because they always have the option of running a repeat, and that happens a few times a year with Dilbert for exactly this sort of reason. But you don't want to inconvenience your customers, so ideally we want to avoid the rerun option.

No matter what, the Stanky Bathturd comic will end up on the Internet, either on the main page of Dilbert.com or in this blog. And no doubt it will be forwarded from there. So don't worry that the comic will be wasted.

There's also the two-version approach. I can change the character's name for print clients and publish the naughtier version online. I've done that a number of times over my career, but the scrubbed comic without the funny name might just float there like a . . .  bath turd.

As my editor, what do you do?
  1. Kill the clever name but keep the comic.
  2. Change the clever name for print clients only.
  3. Go for it (and know newspaper clients will complain)
Your opinions will likely influence the decision.

Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +97
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Feb 1, 2013
Option 3:

This whole blog entry reminds me of another set of comics written and posted in 2009:

However, that website currently has technical difficulties, you can find them elsewhere here:
Page 1:

The rest of it:
Feb 1, 2013
I say - option 3 - GO FOR IT!
Feb 1, 2013
Scrap the name, get a new one. Stanky Bathturd is too low-brow and potty-humoured (unintentionally as it may be).

How about something like Burt Dastard (or slightly more risque Bertie Dastard)?

Dastard is a good, PC, dig at the character with a nice little swap of the first letters giving you a clearer picture of the character.
Feb 1, 2013
Change the last name from "Bathturd" to "Dickweed". That term has an established pedigree on TV for many years (Mystery Science Theater 3000). Those guys would probably be thrilled for the shout-out.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
Are you verging on open sourcing Dilbert? Wow. Stanky kind of works, but it seems more like a 'nickname'. I would think a government employee with mob tendencies would have some kind of ego issues and avoid nicknames. I did, however, like the earlier comment one reader gave of 'Lithpy'.

Now, Bathturd is okay, but I like a little more freedom, plus the possible double misinterpretation that you might get from 'Busturd' (with additional mental imagery from "buster" and "mustard").

I'm sure whatever you come up with will be just fine. Go for it!
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
If I were editor, I'd go for #2 - change the name for those that are likely to complain.

I don't find 'Bathturd' clever enough to be funny. But my mind leaps so quickly to 'bastard' that the 'bath turd' part gets overlooked. Once you pointed it out, I still don't find it clever enough to be funny. I hope this isn't the biggest punchline in the strip.
Feb 1, 2013

[Some people get to have egos because they earned it.... Scott is one of those people.]

You would seem to have failed to comprehend the point I was trying to make so let me try again more simply: giving Scott a big ego is bad for Dilbert and bad for Scott. Whether or not he 'earned' it is irrelevant.

[His opinion counts more than his editor's or some puritanical numbnuts in the midwest.]

Beleiving your opinion on your work is more important than your customers is one of the steps to your work becoming ruined.
Feb 1, 2013
Go with Stinky Bathterd.
Feb 1, 2013
Consider other names that evoke the same impression. Adolf bin Laden.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
I would opt for "3 - Go for it". The reasoning are as follows:

1) You are already wealthy and established so no threat to your finances
2) The controversy may actually generate even more subscriptions and revenues for you
3) It's time for the rags get with the times (modern that is)
4) It's just funny
Feb 1, 2013
Change the name for print only. It's sophomoric, yes, but we do come here to see the things that Scott thinks are hilarious, and apparently this is one of those things.

Going to press with something you know will just tick a good portion of the people off does not seem worth the bother.

Actually, why not name the character something in the print version that actually makes fun of editors who would complain about the word turd? "Veenie Editar".

Giving the people who appreciate your work access to the REAL content on the website makes it more special.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
No way you get away with it.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
[Whats that? You don't see how this ruins Dilbert?]

No. I don't. Some people get to have egos because they earned it. They see the world differently and their vision has made them demonstrably unique. Scott is one of those people. His opinion counts more than his editor's or some puritanical numbnuts in the midwest.

+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
I agree with the others that you should change the u in turd.
My vote is for E. Phil Bathterd.
But as an pretentious batherd, shouldn't he have several letters after his name (CPA, MBA, PhD)? But use funny ones.
Feb 1, 2013
I'd say change the name - not funny enough to justify the possible repercussions.
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
Keep the name, it is beautiful. Also, never bow to the censor unless it will effect your bottom line. Then of course money rules, except when life or limb is involved. Then morals have more power. There's an equation, but I won't bore you with it.
+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
The name "Bathturd" sounds too...obvious. All your other characters have grown into the names they were given. Asok is a naive Indian fellow. Elbonia meant nothing other than a name that sounds like Albania. Only PHB has a name that gives away his role in the comic.

Maybe something like Bill Bathturb would sound less deliberate, and sound more like the name you want without actually saying it.
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013

If it was really funny I'd say "go for it."

Sorry but this doesn't strike me as even mildly amusing - if I were the editor I say "change it".

You may use Stinkly Illedgit at no charge - there's intended to be connotations of illegitimacy and lack legibility ...
Feb 1, 2013
Just change the spelling to Bathtird or Bathterd.
Editors can't catch purposeful misspellings (at least per my reading experience) and this will also get you past various automated filters that are based on spelling.

I also like WATYF1's suggestion of "E. Phil" for the first name.

E. Phil Bathterd definitely sounds like a government tax guy.
Feb 1, 2013
I see Drowlord is thinking along the same lines as I -- how about Lithpy Bathturd?
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