Cursing girls

Popcorn amphibian and underpants dwarf

Anyone who curses is quickly seen as badly brought up or aggressive. The children's book “Das verrückte Schimpfwort-ABC” proves that scolding can be something very imaginative: the selection of swear words ranges from “boring pop-bag amphibians” to “bulging-eyed couch pillow devils”. Illustrator Michael Schober, who presented the book on Friday at the first children's and youth book fair in Nordheim (district of Kitzingen), tells in an interview about the pleasure of inventing swear words and gender-specific differences in swearing.Question: What is your favorite word from the "Abuse Words ABC"?

Michael Schober: Intergalactic underwear dwarf. Or the disgruntled grouch mole, he looks a bit like Norbert Blüm.

Do children scold differently today than generations before them did?

Schober: Maybe the ranting has gotten bitter, yes.

Were children more imaginative in the past?

Schober: I think that's taken too far. At readings, I am often amazed at how eloquent some children are or what a great language of form they have when drawing.

Do boys curse differently than girls?

Schober: I can't judge that. I find the difference between urban and rural children more striking. I hold up to 50 readings a year and keep finding that the children from the country or from the small town are more disciplined than those from the big city. Sometimes a rougher wind blows there, also when it comes to swear words.

Would you consider the "Abuse Words ABC" to be educationally valuable?

Schober: No. Of course, many parents are happy when their children scold imaginatively for a change. Developing the terms was quite a tightrope walk. It shouldn't be malicious swear words or fecal language - but not too harmless either. Are words like "pathetic", "scratchy" and "puny" pedagogically valuable? I do not think so. They're just plain fun. And that is also the point of the book. You shouldn't be able to say afterwards: “Man, now I can scold even better”, but rather: “I don't need really rough words to scold”.

For which age group is the book suitable?

Schober: For children from three years. But the book is also very popular with adults. There is a successor, the "ABC of cuddly words", with combinations such as "funny luck hum" or "adorable violet king". Lovers can only buy the "ABC of cuddle words", and when the first fall in love has subsided the "ABC of swearwords" (laughs).

Do your children use the dirty dictionary?

Schober: Of course. We like to call ourselves the “shabby underpants bird” or something similar, that has already become established with us.

How did the individual swear words come about?

Schober: Author Regina Schwarz had the idea. It was my job to say whether their swear words could be translated into images. Some were wonderful as words, but could not be represented. Others worked well - the “silly suit monkey” for example. The book is divided into three parts, each part can be opened individually. In the case of the monkey, the upper third shows a monkey with a goofy expression. In the middle you can see a suit, in the lower third the monkey legs. My goal was to be able to guess all the terms separately from one another.

How long did you work on the project?

Schober: The actual working time on the illustrations was about a quarter of a year. Usually someone writes a text that is illustrated and finished. Regina Schwarz, our editor Sabine Frankholz and I worked very closely together on this book and meticulously discussed all the texts and images. A very time consuming business. For the letter W - the "wobbly wobbly worm" - I made 14 sketches until everyone was finally satisfied.

Did you also consult children during the work?

Schober: I discussed the sketches with my sons. My oldest is twelve, the other nine, both of which were quite critical. Regina tested her swear words at readings and read them to children in the neighborhood. It turned out that there are terms that children no longer know today because they are apparently no longer in use. I found it all the nicer to illustrate an almost forgotten word such as “pathetic” in such a way that it really arouses pity.

In the spotlight

Children's and young people's book fair At the first children's and young people's book fair in the Nordheim winegrowers' cooperative (Divino, Landgasse 33), 30 publishers will present 1000 new publications from today, Wednesday, May 28 to Saturday, May 31. On Friday, May 30th (1pm to 3pm) Regina Schwarz and Michael Schober are offering a workshop and a reading on the “Abuse Words ABC”. The organizer of the fair is the German Academy for Children's and Young People's Literature. Information under Tel. (0 93 81) 43 55, Internet: www.akademie-kjl.de

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