RaleighCraps
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January 5th, 2011 at 4:56:30 PM permalink
Reuters reports that Alan Gribben, a Mark Twain scholar, has decided to re-issue the 19th century classic “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” after replacing the N-word with the world “slave” in all 219 places it occurs. http://tothecenter.com/news.php?readmore=14826

Wizard or JB - Please LOCK this thread if it it gets off-topic and starts to get into racist comments. I do not want to be associated with starting a thread of that ilk.

Folks,
Please stay on topic with this thread, since the topic could easily stray into ugly waters!

Due to the linked article stating that wording was changed in Huckleberry Finn to remove the offensive N word, I would like to know your opinions.

Should great works be modified to remove words which have become politically incorrect, or downright offensive?

I am not well versed in Mark Twain, but I believe the N word was not as inflammatory back then, as it is now. I am sure it was still an attention getter, and was used on purpose to provoke a certain response from the reader, but I am equally sure if Twain were writing it today, he would not use the same word. Because of this word, many schools have banned this great book. Is that an over reaction? I am on the fence, and I can certainly agree with both arguments for and against a banning.

Changing the offensive word, while keeping the original context and intent, appears to eliminate the need for the book to be banned.

Is it the right thing to do?
If a word is changed, should there be a note in the front of the modified version stating that 200 instances of word xxxxxxx have been replaced by word yyyyyyy?
Or, should the word be changed with no mention of the removed word?
Always borrow money from a pessimist; They don't expect to get paid back ! Be yourself and speak your thoughts. Those who matter won't mind, and those that mind, don't matter!
TheNightfly
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:09:40 PM permalink
A great literary work is great because of what is between the pages and over time enough people have decided it is a great work. I see no reason why it should be changed. There are lots of books written today that include all sorts of curse/swear words or controversial ideas that may offend people but they are great stories just the same. If anyone finds the story or content offensive then they should probably not read it.

There once was a girl from Nantucket,
who crossed the sea in a bucket.
But when she got there, they asked for a fare
so she pulled up her dress and said, "This is ridiculous. I will turn around and go home and shall not pay your fare".

Not quite the same...
Happiness is underrated
Paigowdan
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:12:18 PM permalink
Shouldn't touch it, or any literature, for that matter. If a word offends you, get over it or read something else. Know the context in which it was written.
Readers know when or that a work has been censored or altered, much in the same way a gambler wouldn't bet his money on a gaffed game.
Try to imaging Shakespeare's work modernized to American English and altered out of political correctness. And Twain wrote in American English; his style wouldn't be acceptable for Shakespeare.
Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes - Henry David Thoreau. Like Dealers' uniforms - Dan.
EvenBob
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:12:59 PM permalink
Quote: RaleighCraps

I am not well versed in Mark Twain, but I believe the N word was not as inflammatory back then, as it is now.



In point of fact, it wasn't inflammatory at all. The book was banned by several libraries for crude language, like “not only itched but scratched”, which was considered an obscene phrase. The N word was never even considered until well into the 20th century. If they want to remove the word from a novel thats 125 years old, they should remove the crucifixion from the Bible. I can't think of anything more offensive than nailing a live human to a cross.
"It's not called gambling if the math is on your side."
Calder
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:15:23 PM permalink
Quote: RaleighCraps

Should great works be modified to remove words which have become politically incorrect, or downright offensive?


No.
PapaChubby
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:17:40 PM permalink
To me, this isn't really a matter of right or wrong. Its an acceptable thing to do in order to expose the work to an audience that otherwise wouldn't get to read it. It is only acceptable to me if the cover and title pages of the book clearly indicate that this is not the original work, and has been modified for content. Heck, they do this all the time when showing theatrical films on television.

Plus, they change the Bible all the time, so there's that, too.
Nareed
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:37:45 PM permalink
Victor Hugo once said "If I wrote only for my time, I'd have broken my pen long ago."

A great work is timeless, and can be read by any reasonably educated person centuries or millennia after it was written, but it remains a product of its time. As such it will naturally operate under diferent standards, and it serves as much as a historical document as a work of art. This is true of other art-works as well: oaintings, sculptures, and mroe recently movies (and arguably photography). They shouldn't be changed or even updated. Literature can be translated, and other things can be restored physically. But that as much meddling as there should be.

Legally, though, all of Mark Twain's works are in the public domain and are fair game for anyone. You can publish it censored, updated, "reconstructed," and in any other way you want. And no one can legally stop you.
Donald Trump is a fucking criminal
Mosca
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:37:48 PM permalink
Quote: EvenBob

In point of fact, it wasn't inflammatory at all. The book was banned by several libraries for crude language, like “not only itched but scratched”, which was considered an obscene phrase. The N word was never even considered until well into the 20th century. If they want to remove the word from a novel thats 125 years old, they should remove the crucifixion from the Bible. I can't think of anything more offensive than nailing a live human to a cross.



It was a slur, but a matter-of-fact slur.

My opinion is, no. What would Blazing Saddles, or the famous Chevy Chase/Richard Pryor SNL skit be without that word? You wanna take it out of Blazing Saddles, you'll have to fight me for that.
A falling knife has no handle.
SOOPOO
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:41:09 PM permalink
If it is 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' by Mark Twain, then use the words that Mark Twain wrote, not the words someone wanted him to write.
EvenBob
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:45:27 PM permalink
Quote: Mosca

It was a slur, but a matter-of-fact slur.



It was no worse than calling an Italian a 'wop', or an Irishman a 'mick'. It wasn't used in polite society, but everybody used it everyday. Archie Bunker used racial slurs all the time, try and find those ep's in reruns now, they never show them. They never happened, I guess.
"It's not called gambling if the math is on your side."
AZDuffman
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:45:29 PM permalink
Quote: Mosca

It was a slur, but a matter-of-fact slur.

My opinion is, no. What would Blazing Saddles, or the famous Chevy Chase/Richard Pryor SNL skit be without that word? You wanna take it out of Blazing Saddles, you'll have to fight me for that.



Watch on the networks, it IS out of "Blazing Saddles." And "Sanford and Son" for that matter. Should not have been removed from them or Huck Finn.

BTW: It was not a racial slur at the time, my understanding is it was a discombogulation of some African word for "black."

The bigger issue is removing ANY word. Ever read "1984?"
All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others
Mosca
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:49:24 PM permalink
Quote: EvenBob

It was no worse than calling an Italian a 'wop', or an Irishman a 'mick'. It wasn't used in polite society, but everybody used it everyday. Archie Bunker used racial slurs all the time, try and find those ep's in reruns now, they never show them. They never happened, I guess.



Right. Even when Twain wrote it, it was considered demeaning, but still just an ordinary slur, not like it is now; we dare not even type it.
A falling knife has no handle.
EvenBob
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:50:19 PM permalink
Quote: AZDuffman



BTW: It was not a racial slur at the time, my understanding is it was a discombogulation of some African word for "black."



In the Old South, people who dealt in slave trading used the word 'Negro' all the time, except with their accents and tendency to slur words, it came out sounding like 'nig-ra'. Over time it was turned into the current N word.
"It's not called gambling if the math is on your side."
thecesspit
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:50:37 PM permalink
No.

This is daft... the words are what the words are... it places the book in the right context, both as a story and historical document.

I hate to use "political correctness gone mad" but well, this time...
"Then you can admire the real gambler, who has neither eaten, slept, thought nor lived, he has so smarted under the scourge of his martingale, so suffered on the rack of his desire for a coup at trente-et-quarante" - Honore de Balzac, 1829
Mosca
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:51:06 PM permalink
Quote: AZDuffman

Quote: Mosca

It was a slur, but a matter-of-fact slur.

My opinion is, no. What would Blazing Saddles, or the famous Chevy Chase/Richard Pryor SNL skit be without that word? You wanna take it out of Blazing Saddles, you'll have to fight me for that.



Watch on the networks, it IS out of "Blazing Saddles." And "Sanford and Son" for that matter. Should not have been removed from them or Huck Finn.

BTW: It was not a racial slur at the time, my understanding is it was a discombogulation of some African word for "black."

The bigger issue is removing ANY word. Ever read "1984?"



It's on my DVD version of Blazing Saddles though. And on my DVD of SNL Season 1, or 2, I don't remember which.
A falling knife has no handle.
AZDuffman
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:53:59 PM permalink
Quote: Mosca

Quote: AZDuffman

Quote: Mosca

It was a slur, but a matter-of-fact slur.

My opinion is, no. What would Blazing Saddles, or the famous Chevy Chase/Richard Pryor SNL skit be without that word? You wanna take it out of Blazing Saddles, you'll have to fight me for that.



Watch on the networks, it IS out of "Blazing Saddles." And "Sanford and Son" for that matter. Should not have been removed from them or Huck Finn.

BTW: It was not a racial slur at the time, my understanding is it was a discombogulation of some African word for "black."

The bigger issue is removing ANY word. Ever read "1984?"



It's on my DVD version of Blazing Saddles though. And on my DVD of SNL Season 1, or 2, I don't remember which.



It is off BS when it is broadcast on TV. When they take it out the shows make no sensem btw.
All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others
Ayecarumba
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:55:00 PM permalink
Changing anything makes it different. It should remain as the author intended. Would you "correct" an e.e. cummings poem like "SNOW" below?

SNOW

cru
is
ingw Hi
sperf
ul
lydesc

BYS FLUTTERFULLY IF

(endbegi ndesignb ecend)tang
lesp
ang
le
s
ofC omego

CRINGE WITHS

lilt(
-ing-
lyful
of)!
(s
r

BIRDS BECAUSE AGAINS

emarkable
s)h?
y&a
(from n
o(into whe)re f
ind)
nd
ArE

GLIB SCARCELYEST AMONGS FLOWERING



Edit: Curse you, automatic left justification! Compare to the original here
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication - Leonardo da Vinci
MathExtremist
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January 5th, 2011 at 5:56:47 PM permalink
No. This is what happens to art when "changed" by current sensibilities:


The Buddhas of Bamiyan
"In my own case, when it seemed to me after a long illness that death was close at hand, I found no little solace in playing constantly at dice." -- Girolamo Cardano, 1563
FleaStiff
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January 5th, 2011 at 6:00:31 PM permalink
Words? The so-called "N-word" was not offensive at the time nor was it alarming in any fashion.

In Victorian England the word belly was inappropriate in mixed company and only the most daring of women might use it at a butcher shop to obtain what is now known as bacon. Similarly the word leg was simply off limits in polite society and depictions of rooms from that era would show a piano leg covered. A decent woman said Lower Extremity and would not use the word leg. Ever.

Anybody here sing Oh Suzanna by Stephen Foster. Second verse about the electricity traveling down the ribber and killing five hundred N-words was not meant to be insulting or inflammatory at all. And white performers appearing in black face was not an insult.

Consider perhaps Dirty Old Town. Most people think the song is about Dublin but its about Salford a town now located on the outskirts of Greater Manchester and "smokey wind" is the politically correct version favored by the town's chamber of commerce. Smelling the sulphurous stench on the Salford wind was not acceptable to the town then.

Anybody here sing Yankee Doodle? It was a song of derision and insult to the American colonists. And the term Macaroni in that song has nothing at all to do with pasta!

Just how much do you want to change language and customs? Remember reading Rip Van Winkle in school? It was an illustration of what a short period of time could do: offer a toast to the King's good health and nearly get strung up for being a Tory! Should we change history for the sake of modern sensibilities? Do you want to have textbooks that depict our polar explorers being offered champagne instead of a woman's urine simply because that is now politically correct? Should our textbooks describe the polar explorers as declining the offer of a host's twelve year old daughter simply because such things are scandalous felonies in our modern age? Should school children be taught that The Globe Theater was a playhouse instead of, as with most theaters at the time, the anteroom of a whorehouse?

Oh, and by the way... to be discriminating was a great compliment, not an insult.
EvenBob
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January 5th, 2011 at 6:10:40 PM permalink
Quote: MathExtremist

No. This is what happens to art when "changed" by current sensibilities:


The Buddhas of Bamiyan



At least the old ladies who covered the penises on statues with fig leaves in the 19th century, didn't knock them off with hammers. Not that they didn't want to...
"It's not called gambling if the math is on your side."
Mosca
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January 5th, 2011 at 6:13:11 PM permalink
Interestingly enough, remember Firesign Theater? On Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, the line went, "Alright, Mrs Presskey, which would you rather do: Hit this dwarf over the head with a bag of sugar, or beat out that rhythm on the drums?" And on the download from emusic, it goes, "...Hit this doo over the head...."

And they had this whole hierarchy of social classes, with Bozos, Boogies, Beaners, Zips and Berserkers... how do you deal with that? Actually, it's worth reading on its own, The Five Lifestyles of Man of the Future:


FIVE LIFESTYLES OF MAN: {BOZO}S, {BOOGIES}, {BEANERS}, {ZIPS} and
{BERZERKERS}. The FT's {BBOP} book describes them all as follows:

The five lifestyles of man in the future are, starting from top to
bottom, though it's circular:

First the {BERZERKER}. Clue to a Berserker: Anybody who's got a
gun.Anybody in a lime-green car with eight-foot tires, called Demon or
Barracuda. Any Army officer, anybody in uniform. A Bobby is not a
Berserker. But maybe he is because he carries his job, his badge. Most
people who have jobs. There's a Berserker aspect to all of us. You can
play softball with a Berserker. A Berserker doesn't always have to
kill, but in the back of his mind, it's not a bad idea.

Under the Berserkers are the {ZIPS}. The archetypal Zip is the 1930's
guy with the thin moustache. Zips have always been concerned with hair.
We're exhibiting Zip tendencies in having rather fancily cut
moustaches. We're all prone to these various aspects. There's a Zip in
everyone's kip, is the World War One English expression. Zips love new
products. Zips are often found inside new headphones. They've got zip,
pep. Zzzzzip! Zip me up! Most actors are Zips. There's a category
called Hip Zip, which David invented yesterday.

B.O.Z.O. is the Brotherhood of Zips and Others. Bozos are people who
band together for fun and profit. They have no jobs. Anybody who goes
on a tour is a Bozo. Why does a Bozo cross the street? Because there's a
Bozo on the other side. It comes from the phrase *vosotros*, meaning
others. They're the huge, fat, middle waist. The archetype is an Irish
drunk clown with red hair and nose, and pale skin. Fields, William
Bendix. Everybody tends to drift towards Bozoness. It has Oz in it.
They mean well. They're straight-looking except they've got inflatable
shoes. They like their comforts. The Bozos have learned to enjoy their
free time, which is all the time.

(###"*vos otros*" is a multilevel pun on the spanish noun, *bosotros*,
meaning clowns, "the 'b' and the 'v' being the same" -- ed.)

Now, the {BOOGIES}. You see a bunch of Boogies around you. That's our
lifestyle. There are more spades in this class than any other. But the
world is changing. There are now getting to be a lot of spade Zips. And
spade Bozos. Boogies don't differentiate between grass and alcohol.
People who work in post offices are generally Boogies. They take it
easy. They don't Zip. They're not Bozos because they don't clone. They
boogie around rather than hanging around one another. They Boogie.

The other class is the {BEANERS}. The Beaners live outside the Law of
Gravity. They have more color television sets than anybody in the
world. They're always appearing either on or with you color TV. They
watch themselves on color TV. Beaners are very concerned with their own
refuse, which they leave piled up around their house, but always in
use. They're always going to use it. Hundreds of old pickup trucks. All
Indians are Beaners. They don't care. Why should they? Beaners can't
tell lies. They fear no one. "Don't point your finger at me Daddy-o, I
cut it off!" Pico and Alvarado are Beaners. We love the Beaners.

Most youth is Bozo-like now [early 70's]. That's why people get so
upset when Berzerkers come into a Bozo gathering. 'Cause Bozos never do
anything to anybody. Bozos keep having rock festivals. They create
marijuana free-areas. Grass has moved into Bozodom.

The Berserkers and Zips run things now. Why does a Zip pay taxes?
Because he likes to fill out the forms. Berserkers run things by
telling you the Beaners are going to get you. Those desperate Beaners
may strike at any time! All politicians are Berserkers.

Update for the 90's:

During the late 70's the youth began drifting into {ZIP}ness, with the
disco-era, and the general populace, in definite {BERZERKER} mode,began
the Reagan years....

The use by former {PRESIDENT} George Bush, referring to some other
politicians as "Bozos" may not have been influenced by the FT, but it
might as well have been. Bush himself, like most politicians,was a
{BERZERKER}.

Clinton has been showing definite {BOZO} tendencies in the way that he
{CLONES}, {BOOGIE}ness with his non-inhaling experiments,{ZIP}ness with
Cristophe, but to date only a few {BERZERKER} tendencies...

But remember: it's all cyclical!
A falling knife has no handle.
mkl654321
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January 5th, 2011 at 8:12:30 PM permalink
I think the worst sin of all would be to make the change without even mentioning it. If you did so, and then published the book as "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", you would be lying, and defrauding the people who bought and read the book.

So let's say, the editor makes it very explicit what he's done, in a forward or preface or something. Then, isn't the word "slave" in the book exactly equivalent to the word "nigger", since one has replaced and therefore connotes the other? What's the real difference? It's like the difference between "f***" and "fuck"--there isn't any.

I've probably mentioned this before, but one of my favorite comics is a "Wizard of Id" strip where the king (who is extremely short) tells his lackey/knight Rodney that henceforth, the word "short" shall be stricken from the language and replaced with the word "lovable". Rodney then introduces the king to his gathered subjects: "And now a word from our lovable king." The king tells Rodney: "Report to the rack."
The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality.---George Bernard Shaw
rdw4potus
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January 5th, 2011 at 8:51:11 PM permalink
Here's my favorite case of foolish censorship. Die Hard 3. In the TV edit, Sam Jackson says "melon farmer" instead of MFer. I'm not exactly sure the racist overtones are better than the sexual implications...
"So as the clock ticked and the day passed, opportunity met preparation, and luck happened." - Maurice Clarett
Croupier
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January 6th, 2011 at 1:14:36 AM permalink
Quote: FleaStiff



Consider perhaps Dirty Old Town. Most people think the song is about Dublin but its about Salford a town now located on the outskirts of Greater Manchester and "smokey wind" is the politically correct version favored by the town's chamber of commerce. Smelling the sulphurous stench on the Salford wind was not acceptable to the town then.



Aww, youre talking about my hometown ,and where I still live now.

But back on topic, I believe all classic works should be published unedited. As others have said before me, they are historical as much as literary. I agree with that whoelhartedly.
[This space is intentionally left blank]
weaselman
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January 6th, 2011 at 5:37:31 AM permalink
Oh, this is so much like how it used to be back in the USSR ...
It is not the mutilation of the artwork that puts me off the most about this, but worse, this condescending, arrogant belief of the censor that the reader is stupid and unable of processing information on his own.

And it doesn't only apply to the works from the past (although, I agree, that it is especially appalling when they are published in mutilated form without the author's consent), but also to the modern day.

Like it was said in the beginning - if Mark Twain was writing today, he would not use this word. He definitely would not, but not because he would think there is a better word to be used in its place, but simply because he would not have any hope of publishing his book otherwise.

Back in the USSR, that had a long and shameful history of censorship long before they thought about it here in US, they had even coined a special term to describe the hoops a writer has to jump through in order for his work to avoid the censor's scissors - Aesop's language.
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Nareed
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January 6th, 2011 at 7:19:26 AM permalink
Has anyone read Harry Turtledove? He writes "alternative history." One of his best knwon works is the Great War series, in which the CSA won the Civil War. The series has a prequel dealign with a war between the US and CSA in the 1880s, then follows with WWI with the US, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey on one side, and the CSA, England, France and Russia in the other. This time the Quadruple Alliance wins over the Entente.

Anyway, since there is a Confederate States of America, and since it kept slavery til the 1880s and then both segregated and kept down black people, race figrues prominently on the plots. He uses the N word freely, both as a slur and how some balcks refer to themselves. He also has the annoying habit of spelling accents, particularly when black characters speak. As far as I know, this has raised no controversy at all.

I don't think the use of slurs in fiction is wrong as long as they're used to portray or express something concrete like hostility or maybe indiference. Turtledove casts balcks as victims in the CSA, but not as bad people. Indeed his best and most well-rounded character is a black truck driver named Cincinnatus Driver (he choses the last name on purpose). If I were writing about a victorious nazi Germany (which Turtledove, as well as others, have done), I'd perforce have to use slurs when refering to Jews, because that's what nazis would do.

Not that I'd want to. when I think of AH, I usually want to write something more along the lines of The Paratime series by H. Beam Piper (great read, BTW). But as yet it's just a minor interest.
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pacomartin
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January 6th, 2011 at 7:35:06 AM permalink
Something similar came up in Toronto three years ago as related in an the article Racial slur on sofa label stuns family. The term ni@@er-brown was commonly used in British (& Hong Kong) English in the first part of the 20th century. Because computer translations often use old dictionaries where they don't have to pay to use copyrighted material, the worker in Guanghzhou typed in a series of chinese characters describing the color, and the computer spit out ni@@er-brown for the color section for the tag on the sofa. It was just an old dictionary and a clueless non-English speaking worker. It ended up causing an international complaint from a prime minister in Canada.

We all know that Huck Finn is one of the most commonly banned books in school libraries because of the N-word. Many parents do not see it as a teaching opportunity to describe language in the late 19th century. The reaction is typically more visceral.

I actually think that the publisher did a favor. Now the book can be assigned to students who might otherwise not get to read it. The teacher can resubstitute the original word in her classroom.

Quote: bowdlerize


Thomas Bowdler and his wife published a book called the "Family Shakespeare" in the 19th century. All of the dialogue concerning farts, incest, rape, sex and violence was removed. For nearly a hundred years the only Shakespeare that most Americans read had all the offensive bits removed. Unlike the Huck Finn version where a single word is switched, whole passages were removed and storylines were often changed. The name of Bowdler's is preserved in the eponym "to bowdlerize".

Nareed
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January 6th, 2011 at 7:53:32 AM permalink
Quote: pacomartin

Something similar came up in Toronto three years ago as related in an the article Racial slur on sofa label stuns family. The term ni@@er-brown was commonly used in British (& Hong Kong) English in the first part of the 20th century.



I heard once of people complaining of racial slurs on balck ink cartridges with multilingual labels.

In Spanish the word for "black" is "negro." When talking about black people, Spanish speakers will say "negros," which means nothing more sinister than "blacks." There is a more poilte phrase that has fallen out of use: "gente de color," meaning "people of color."
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pacomartin
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January 6th, 2011 at 8:14:23 AM permalink
La Maldita Vecindad is a popular Mexico City ska band that tries to break the power of racial epithets by putting them all in one song called Salta Pa´Tras with a chorus of "What does it matter?".

It's a good song. The list of racial epithets is much more extensive in Mexico than in English. Instead of hiding from the words it essentially tries to take away their power. In a similar way, Mexican Americans in the 1970's were able to transform the word "chicano" from a slur to an empowering word of ethnic pride.
ItsCalledSoccer
ItsCalledSoccer
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Joined: Aug 30, 2010
January 6th, 2011 at 9:13:55 AM permalink
Quote: RaleighCraps

Reuters reports that Alan Gribben, a Mark Twain scholar, has decided to re-issue the 19th century classic “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” after replacing the N-word with the world “slave” in all 219 places it occurs. http://tothecenter.com/news.php?readmore=14826

Wizard or JB - Please LOCK this thread if it it gets off-topic and starts to get into racist comments. I do not want to be associated with starting a thread of that ilk.

Folks,
Please stay on topic with this thread, since the topic could easily stray into ugly waters!

Due to the linked article stating that wording was changed in Huckleberry Finn to remove the offensive N word, I would like to know your opinions.

Should great works be modified to remove words which have become politically incorrect, or downright offensive?

I am not well versed in Mark Twain, but I believe the N word was not as inflammatory back then, as it is now. I am sure it was still an attention getter, and was used on purpose to provoke a certain response from the reader, but I am equally sure if Twain were writing it today, he would not use the same word. Because of this word, many schools have banned this great book. Is that an over reaction? I am on the fence, and I can certainly agree with both arguments for and against a banning.

Changing the offensive word, while keeping the original context and intent, appears to eliminate the need for the book to be banned.

Is it the right thing to do?
If a word is changed, should there be a note in the front of the modified version stating that 200 instances of word xxxxxxx have been replaced by word yyyyyyy?
Or, should the word be changed with no mention of the removed word?



I think there are a couple of facets to this to think about ...

First, having the original piece of artwork in its original form is invaluable and absolutely necessary. Whatever the powers-that-be let kids read, the ORIGINAL absolutely needs to be preserved and available. As a corollary, I would also add that any academic study of the piece absolutely MUST be done using the original form.

Second, I don't think I have a problem with the editing for certain audiences. It happens all the time in all sorts of art. I would add that, edit away, but do two things: 1) preserve the original, and 2) state loudly and clearly that there's been an edit.

I think, though, when you do start editing, the power of the original can get lost. How many people have made the point that the bible is unreliable because there's been a zillion different translations? If the original had the potential to be instructive throughout the ages (Huck Finn, bible, Constitution, etc.), this means that some terrible mistakes could be made/repeated.

Note bene: I think something like this is a danger in electronic books that get "updated" via internet, like on the iPad or Kindle or whatever. It's possible that original, meaningful works could be globally edited with a few keystrokes, throwing lots of things like great works, legal precedents, laws, etc., into an uproar. I don't think this happens, but it could, and it brings it into the realm of possibility.
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