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I am reading Hemingway's "For Whom The Bell Tolls" (an edition from 1960). Throughout the book, strong words and obscenities are replaced literally by the term "obscenity" or similar. For example (emphasis added):

“My transmission is smashed,” the driver, who was bent over by the rear of his truck, said.

Obscene your transmission. Go ahead, I say.”

“They do not go ahead when the differential is smashed,” the driver told h’m and bent down again.

“Get thyself pulled then, get ahead so that we can get this other obscenity off the road.”

My question is, at what point are the actual swearwords (that I believe should be there, but I may be wrong) replaced by these "euphemisms"?

Does Hemingway want us to believe that the people actually use the word "obscenity" literally, as above?

Does he self-censor in order to make the book more elaborated, distance the reader from the actions he desribes? Note that other parts of the language are very old-seeming or elaborate (I am no native speaker), as in "thou", "thyself", etc.

Or is this actual censorship that was imposed by the publishers or editors, given that the book is originally from 1940 (my edition is from 1960)?

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    Hello, Marie. This question does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center. It asls fot the interpretation of what is almost certainly a non-standard practice and is thus literary criticism. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 1 '17 at 9:37
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    @EdwinAsworth It would be on-topic on Literature SE though, is the best thing for Marie to re-ask it there or is there a way to get it migrated? – Spagirl Nov 1 '17 at 10:34
  • "Obscene" == "fuck". – Hot Licks Nov 1 '17 at 12:30
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    I don't speak Spanish, but I assume it has a familiar form of 'you' as French does and that Hemingway had the Spanish driver say 'thou' to indicate that he was using that form. The swear-words he probably had in mind would have been regarded as unprintable in 1940; he replaced them with 'obscenity' rather than use a milder expletive which would have been unrealistic. – Kate Bunting Nov 1 '17 at 13:38
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    As @Kate observes, the dialog is all supposedly translated from Spanish. So the obscenities would have been translated from Spanish, as well, which may use somewhat different words for obscenities than English. This might be another justification for using "obscenity" instead of any particular word. – Peter Shor Nov 1 '17 at 17:53
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Hemingway is using self-censorship to avoid getting actual obscenities cut from the text by the publisher. He is quite clever. By doing so he can indicate quite strong obscenity (fuck your transmission) by saying obscene your transmission) and avoid getting the passage struck by the publisher's censors. Likewise by this other obscenity stands for something like this other fucking thing (probably in this case another truck, so this other fucking truck).

As far as thou, thee, thine, thyself, Hemingway uses it to represent the 'you singular' form of Spanish; if the characters are meant to be speaking Spanish, Hemingway tries to write the English dialog as if it were Spanish. Centuries ago in English you used to be second-person plural only, and thou was second-person singular nominative (subject), with the other forms being inflections. Nowadays thou is considered archaic (or in some cases, dialectal).

So you'll find many other uses of English that are not idiomatic throughout the text, because the author is attempting to write in English using Spanish phraseology when his characters are "speaking Spanish" in the novel.

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