A few days ago I watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with my daughter. I have to say it still holds to the test of time in many ways. Oddly enough, I enjoy the effects from the older movie far more than the newer Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp. The overuse of over-the-top CG really took away from it. More than that though, I think the older movie took away just the right things from the book for translating it to a watchable movie.
How does this relate to writing? Have patience, I am getting there. Anyway, one of the lines that was unchanged from the book was early in the movie with the lickable wallpaper. Wonka refers to something called a snozzberry and how it tastes like what it should. Some people thought it was just some nonsense word, but as a child I knew better. It had to mean something. I concluded that it must mean boogers. After all, what sort of berry would come from a nose?
And I was miserably wrong. As an adult years later in one of my random curiosities, I went delving. As it turns out, the beloved child author was making a very sick joke when he used the term. Roald Dahl wrote very few things for an adult audience, but 15 years after Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was written he wrote My Uncle Oswald. In no uncertain terms, he laid out exactly what a snozzberry was. The answer? The tip of a man’s genitals. I won’t repeat the lines here, as more than enough quotes are found online easily enough, but the already twisted book of a highly sexual nature managed to taint forever a children’s classic.
Inside joke or not, it was probably best left unknown. The shift from eccentric genius to creepy pedophile in the mind of the reader is not an effect the author probably ever wanted. More than likely he expected the line would go ignored and anyone reading one wouldn’t be reading the other. Remember this when you are doing your own writing. Don’t hide sick jokes in children’s fiction of course, but also don’t forget that no matter how unlikely something is in your mind, someone out there is going to do it. Don’t taint your own legacy and do everything in writing with an understanding that it is going to be known to everyone who comes thereafter.