Revised edition of suspended slang book to hit shelves

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(L-R) The covers of Sat thu dau mung mu (Killer with a soft head), and its revised edition, Phe nhu con Te te (Pangolin in a spin)
A comic book featuring youth slang, which was withdrawn from bookstores after its racy content and potentially offensive language were criticized, will be released in a revised edition to meet readers’ “huge demand.”

While Sat thu dau mung mu (Killer with a soft head) has been sitting in limbo for two years with Vietnam’s publishing regulator yet to decide if it will ban the book, a modified version titled Phe nhu con Te te (Pangolin in a spin) will be available in bookstores on March 27.

Author Nguyen Thanh Phong on March 20 told Thanh Nien the upcoming book is still a collection of “illustrations of astute slang,” but that the phrases which had caused a stir around the country had been rewritten.

Phong, who won the Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Asian Youth Animation & Comics Contest, has been criticized by people who say his use of rhyming slang corrupts the Vietnamese language and is a bad influence on the nation’s youth.

Examples of Phong’s phrases include “Cai kho lo cai ngu” (Difficulty sparks stupidity), “Dau kho nhu con ho” (Writhe as a tiger), and “Chan nhu con gian” (Tasteless as cockroaches).

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The author said that due to the “huge demand” from readers, Nha Nam, one of the book’s two publishers, had planned to publish its second edition before the Ministry of Information and Communications demanded the original be recalled on October 24, 2011.

“We have learned by experience from the problems [we faced with the previous book] to edit [the upcoming book] as carefully as possible,” Phong said.

He said he “did not know” when the publisher received approval to publish the revised edition of the original work.

Nha Nam retitled the new version Phe nhu con Te te and he approved it, he added.

Unclear rationale

While the public acknowledged that the scandalous book was withdrawn from stores due to its alleged racy content, insiders have blamed pre-publishing formalities.

A picture from Sat thu dau mung mu depicting two soldiers playing shuttlecock with a hand grenade.A picture from Sat thu dau mung mu depicting two soldiers playing shuttlecock with a hand grenade.

Nha Nam came up with the first edition’s title, which the book’s other publisher, Fine Arts Publishing House, has blamed for the problems which ensued.
Dang Thi Bich Ngan, vice director of the Fine Arts Publishing House, said the title had been Thanh ngu sanh dieu (Astute slang) until Nha Nam suddenly changed it without consulting anyone at Fine Arts Publishing.

Therefore, the book was not submitted to the Publishing Department before it was released as is mandated by law, she said.

However, it has also been said that the book was suspended for several illustrations that allegedly distort the image of the Vietnamese military. Examples include the depiction of two soldiers playing shuttlecock with a grenade to illustrate the slang expression “Bo doi phai choi troi” (Soldiers are risk takers).

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