The internet was alive this week with news stories, articles and blogs about the announcement that NewSouth Books of Alabama will publish a new version of the classics Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer in February with the offensive words 'nigger' and 'injun' removed. Yes...I did indeed use the 'N-word' as it is so often described. I agree that it's an ugly word from an ugly period of American history and we may all have to live with it for a long time. It's a shame to think that they feel that they have the right to change the author's words. I glanced through my ancient copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin and it didn't take long to find the 'N-word'. And also the 'S-word' (Sambo). Hmm...perhaps it will be next on the hit list (if it hasn't been sanitized already). In future years someone may find the country of Spain as offensive and they will substitute that country with Sweden in all of Hemingway's novels. Sadly, the cliche "opening up a large kettle of fish" comes to mind.
In my opinion, words are just words. They are reflective of the time and location of where they were written and what was happening. I once worked with Sudanese man who said that the 'N-word' was not offensive to him. He had no history with the word and it had no meaning for him. In American culture, the word was offensive then and it still is now. That does not give license to some to change the works of others. What do you do if you are walking down the street with you youngster and you pass a crowd of you folks (boys AND girls) using a lot of 'F' words, 'S' words and a whole lot worse? You tell them that those dirty words are NOT appropriate and should not be used. Is that not also the procedure when one is introducing literature to their children? Anyhow...I'll get off my tiny soapbox now...
I'd like to link you to poet Jhon Baker and his blog THE PLATITUDES OF WILLFUL RESEMBLANCES where he discussed this topic in greater depth and with far more intelligence and compassion than I could ever hope to muster. Follow his link to an article by Mark Brendle, media critic for BarnesandNoble.com...by far the best words I've seen on this topic to date.
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