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Paris sparks controversy with recall of ‘shocking’ dictionary on the body

Screengrab, Thierry Magnier | A recall of 'The crazy dictionary of the body' has sparked controversy in Paris

The City of Paris has ordered the recall of a dictionary of the body from its schools, saying some of the illustrations and definitions included in the book risked “shocking” young children or their parents, according to French media reports Friday.


The dictionary, by French artist Katy Couprie, was published in 2012 and creatively defines 801 feelings and parts of the human body through 376 illustrations and descriptions.

The book discusses everything from sensations and feelings – like love and passion – to actual body parts such as skin, vulvas and penises. But it appears to have made more than one city hall official uncomfortable, prompting the Parisian school board to issue a recall of the book in early October, the Libération daily newspaper reported on Friday.

The board explained its decision by saying that the drawings “could shock young children or their parents”.

“I don’t see what’s dangerous in the word ‘clitoris’. I would love for someone to explain to me why it’s a problem using real words with children,” Thierry Magnier, the publisher of the 230-page “Crazy Dictionary of the Body” told daily French newspaper Libération.

“I’m outraged, how could you not be? This is very serious, it’s putting the brakes on creativity,” the paper quoted Magnier as saying on Friday.

In response to the criticism, the school board now appears to be reconsidering the move.

“This case is a bit of a blunder,” Alexandra Cordebard, in charge of educational affairs for the City of Paris, told Libération.

“I want to clear up the misunderstanding: There’s no political will [for us] to choose the school books instead of allowing the professionals to do so, and obviously no will to censor anything – it’s an intolerable idea,” she said, noting the books had not been physically removed from the schools.

“There’s a discussion going on in our administration. But for the moment, nothing has been decided.”


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