A matter of ems and ens—dashes!
January 22, 2008 7:09 AM   Subscribe

Prithee help, gentle Sirs of dear ————ton.

The practice of quaint and dusty lore of censoring place and people names in the following fashion hath greatly interesting me, fortooth.

viz: Jane Haberdasher was engaged to Mr ———— of Berryvelvetton. One saw them taking tea in ————shire.

That is to say, replacing part or all of a name or place with dashes. Examples more can be found in books like Jane Eyre, Tristram Shandy, and similar books of that rough time frame.

Why was this done? Is it a stylistic or practical matter? When did it stop being popular (?), or is it still done in modern literature? Is there a name for it?

If I can clarify, please ask unto me.
posted by oxford blue to Grab Bag (9 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: "Yep, this looks like a rare genuine askme quadruple," declared Mr. C-----. -- cortex

This question has definitely been asked before, although I can why it would be difficult to search for.
posted by amro at 7:17 AM on January 22, 2008

posted by phoenixy at 7:17 AM on January 22, 2008

I believe this was the original "Anytown USA".
posted by shownomercy at 7:18 AM on January 22, 2008

Response by poster: Well, I could have asked a new question, but I choose to ask something that had already been answered three times! Three times! Trois fois! Drei Hambuger!

If anyone needs me I'll be in the back committing seppuku. I have failed my metafilter overlords.
posted by oxford blue at 7:28 AM on January 22, 2008

Try this answer by Sidhedevil to an earlier question about this.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 7:30 AM on January 22, 2008

As the linked answer says, it was to give the reader the sense that the events in the story actually happened. It's like the notice at the beginning of the film Fargo:
"THIS IS A TRUE STORY. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred."

Although the film itself is completely fictional... Joel Coen said, "If an audience believes that something's based on a real event, it gives you permission to do things they might otherwise not accept."
posted by ludwig_van at 7:43 AM on January 22, 2008

This has been done (at least) three times before.
posted by Who_Am_I at 8:17 AM on January 22, 2008

This has been done (at least) three times before.

Yeah, the OP acknowledged that above.
posted by amro at 8:36 AM on January 22, 2008

oxford blue, perhaps you could redeem yourself by adding some tags to your question to help others avoid quintuple-posting in the future: censor, blanks, jane austen, etc.
posted by kidsleepy at 8:48 AM on January 22, 2008

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