Home
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:  +96
  • Print
  • Share
  • Share:

Comments

Sort By:
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
How about adding ly to the end of the name, that way the turd doesn't stand out, so to speak...
 
 
Feb 1, 2013
I don't actually find the name that funny or clever. It's not offensive--I find turds and stinky bastards tremendously funny. All I see is "Stanky Turd." The Bathturd=Bastard part gets lost, and it just seems like you're calling the character a stinky turd. Clever funny is more subtle than that. Part of the problem is that the name doesn't parody a real name. For example, "Fart Stinkletter" is funny, because your mind immediately fills in the "Art Linkletter" part.

I think you'd do better by simply coming up with a different name for the character. Throw it open to the commenters here. I'm sure someone will come up with something better.
 
 
Feb 1, 2013
@rambis

[Do you not know who you are?

You are Scott. F---ing. Adams. There is no other. ]

Way to try and ruin Dilbert!

Whats that? You don't see how this ruins Dilbert?

Ive mentioned before that, over the years, Scott seems to be losing touch with what its like for the rest of us and should maybe get a cubicle job for a bit just to remind himself. Comments like this may accelerate the process; make him think he can get away with anything, even if it isn't funny. Not to mention the other probs big egos have historically given celebs.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
Print the original naming; or step back and consider the intended use of the person's name and if negative sentiment for govt. services is bad enough; you could come up with a benign but funny name and let the impact of anti-government messaging be repulsive enough.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
Do you not know who you are?

You are Scott. F---ing. Adams. There is no other.

Put the name in how YOU want it. Make them take print it. Make it a recurring character out of spite.

 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
I think that you have a better chance to get past the editor if it sounds like a name, Bathturd doesn't imo, i would change it for Basturd, it sounds kinda like Arthur.
If you want to go with Bathturd, i would go for option number 2.
 
 
Feb 1, 2013
I think you're going to much for bathroom humor.

My suggestion - going with a tax theme is to name him Ira Tating. Maybe that's too obvious.

If you insist on turds then go with Ira T. Atingturds. This points out that he's iratating, and a turd, and probably really pretentious. Not only that but it makes me think he is not only a turd, but an eater of turds too.

You can have that one for free.
 
 
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
I've actually worked as the comic's editor at a small daily in a fairly conservative city. If you have to ask, then you already know the answer on this one.

Trust your editor when he says "no," and challenge yourself to come up with something even better. This could be one of those Asok feeling his nuts moments.
 
 
Feb 1, 2013
If the character is involved in government taxation, why not just go with Rob Steel. It's cleaner and more to the point.
 
 
+30 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
I think Bathturd might get by, but "Stanky" is just a waste of a first name. You have an opportunity to do so much better.

Try the old "initial" substitution gimmick that allows you to spell out what you really think of the character.

For example: E. Phil Bathturd

On it's face, it sounds less vulgar. But if you read it fast enough, it says exactly what you want.

WATYF
 
 
Feb 1, 2013
I once read in a big 'history of comics' book that for some months in the 60s there were two Pogos a day, one for newspapers who could take a joke about the Vietnam war and another one for newspapers that couldn't. You could maybe do something like that?
 
 
Feb 1, 2013
Why not make him French and call him Stanky Flotteurbain?
 
 
+27 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
I would get rid of the name. It's just plain sophmoric. I am sure you could easily come up with something better.
 
 
Feb 1, 2013
Potty humor to me has always been funny, and as far back as I can remember, my family has enjoyed a good joke. Go for it. It is not really an offensive word and people can always choose to ignore comics that offend them.
 
 
+29 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
I can't believe that you can't use "turd."

But I'm not particularly impressed by "Stanky Bathturd" as the name of a character. You know... there's just nothing remotely subtle about it. Maybe if he has a terrible lisp? You need a lisp-y first name in that case.

Personally, I'd re-work it, but... like you always say, don't take cartooning advice from an investor. Wait, that doesn't sound quite right.
 
 
Feb 1, 2013
Why not change turd to "terd" Bathterd? It's not as funny, but it also isn't as offensive and you could lessen the possibility of 1 and 2.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
I'd change the spelling just enough to avoid the visual while leaving the phonetics for the savvy readers. Bathterd, or Bathtord might get by and still be *almost* as funny.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
You ruined the word "Saturday" for me. I will have to use "sunnanæfen" from now on.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 1, 2013
Go for it.
 
 
Feb 1, 2013
Perhaps you could come up with a name with similar nuances, with less chance of unreasonable offence being taken. For example, applying a little dog(bert) Latin, I came up with Detritus Illegitimi. This might require the character to have someone high-brow look
l, but you're up to that.
 
 
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog