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What you say about his company

January 5, 2011
Illustration of Jim and Huckleberry Finn, by E...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m sure you’ve all seen the collective Internet rumble about the new version of Huck Finn.

A Twain scholar and NewSouth Books plan to grace the world with a single volume of Sawyer and Finn that replaces the words “nigger” and “injun” with less offensive terms.

Now, this fellow isn’t advocating whatfuckery along the lines of banning the book from schools.  In his mind, he is making the book more accessible.

Why in the world would anyone not want that?

I may be a curmudgeon, but this kind of alteration annoys the shit out of me.  I understand how their kind of reasoning arrived at this point, but as a person that often precisely selects his words, the concept makes me bristle.

I had less of a reaction to the DVD player that cuts out the naughty and violent parts of movies.   It just didn’t tweak me as much.

Words are powerful certainly, but not in the way many people seem to believe.

Some folks see morality in words, not in concepts.  Some words are simply bad.

Bad words!  BAD!  GET OFF THE COUCH!

Other words are not bad.  Those words are nice and made of cinnamon and sugar.

Fuck is bad.  Intercourse is just dandy.  You see?

It’s not the definition that matters, it’s how you express something that matters.  Fuck is vulgar.

Because it sounds dirty.  It has a barking quality to it.  It has less syllables than intercourse and is therefore the domain of the lower caste.  Because it is more fun.

When I read this snippet of that article, I felt an odd sadness.  They are saying words that I would say –  “for a single word to form a barrier.”  However, we are not saying the same thing.

“After a number of talks, I was sought out by local teachers, and to a person they said we would love to teach this novel, and Huckleberry Finn, but we feel we can’t do it anymore. In the new classroom, it’s really not acceptable.” Gribben became determined to offer an alternative for grade school classrooms and “general readers” that would allow them to appreciate and enjoy all the book has to offer. “For a single word to form a barrier, it seems such an unnecessary state of affairs,” he said.

When topics of importance will not be discussed openly due to the language of our heritage, do we truly grasp that heritage?  How can anyone understand the depth and emotion of events such as occur in these stories by sanitizing it to avoid uncomfortable discussion?

Can something like this be unacceptable IN CONTEXT?

Certainly, this isn’t true censorship.  Especially according to the driving forces behind this new version.  Because the real version still exists and you can go find it.

At what point will people no longer know it was written any other way?

This is less a rant about this new version of the book than about where we are all headed.

Sac up, people.  This treatment does not solve any issue other than an adult’s uncomfortable feelings when confronted with explaining the very real, very mean world we have created for our youth.

Besides, that kid with the whitewashed Huck Finn in his back pocket is listening to Nas’s “N.I.G.G.E.R.” on his iPod Touch right this damn minute while dealing with some real shit, yanno.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2011 7:12 PM

    It’s a shame you didn’t post a Dire Straits video (you know which one) with this.

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