Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Random Thought Thursday

Today's quote is from Mark Twain.

Make it a point to do something every day that you don't want to do. This is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.

Recently I read an article about a new edition of Huckleberry Finn in which Twain's "offensive" words have been changed.

A "Twain scholar" named Alan Gribbon (where you can read all sorts of articles about it) has changed the N-word to "slave." (Not the first time this has been done.) Injun Joe becomes "Indian Joe" and half-breed becomes "half-blood."

I don't understand what the problem is. (Maybe someone can help me out here?) Aren't people (parents, teachers, readers etc.) able to put this book into context? Don't they know it was published a mere 20 years after the end of the Civil War? Can't they read it is as an example of how people lived/spoke/behaved in that era and not take it personally, not be offended? How is it we can be offended by the N-word (we have become so sensitive we can't even spell it out) and yet we can read, write, hear the f-word without a seeming care in the world? We can read, write, hear the big G-D and not flinch. We're okay with murder, violence, rape, blood and guts, sex, but we are offend by a...word? We can use all sorts of colorful descriptive words that describe other peoples, hick, redneck, cedar hacker, trailer trash, spic, honky, wop...need I go on?...but we dare not use that word.

I just don't get it.

I have to admit I didn't hear the N-word growing up in the Virgin Islands nor do I remember there being an issue about Huck Finn when we read it in school, a school where the majority of kids and teachers were black. Does that mean we weren't "sensitive?" Does it mean we were ignorant? Or does it mean we understood Huck Finn for what it was/is...a glimpse into the past, a piece of American Literature that should be valued for what it is and preserved as it is.

(End of rant.)

So: What have you done today that you did not want to do?


  1. Great post! No, I don't really get it, either. It bothers me that a word in a book can bother others so much so that they'll alter a classic.

    Today I cleaned the kitchen... so didn't want to, but it needed doing.

  2. Today I went out before my tea and fixed the fence -- the dogs escaped last night. It was very cold and I didn't want to do it but I did.

    If they do that to Twain what will be next? Rewrite Mein Kompf?

    I could go on and on about this subject but I will refrain.

  3. I nagged my kids to get ready this morning. I never find that fun. But you're right about Huck Finn. Sheesh, talk about making mountains out of mole hills.

  4. SO agree. I DON'T agree with using it now (neither do I agree with any other derogatory term for any race or the GD) BUT I don't agree in taking it out of historical novels. It's accurate. And, aren't we always told if you write a period piece to be accurate? Derp. It's just stupid to me. Yea, TODAY the word is completely uncalled for and inappropriate but in that TIME it was just the way it was. Now the book is inaccurate...Ugh. I just think about how FURIOUS I would be if someone took it upon themselves to change my work after it was published.

    Sorry. You got me going!

    I got out of bed this morning-didn't want to do
    I recorded birthdays that I have been putting off all week-didn't want to do. YEAY! Does that mean I'm done for the rest of the day?

  5. Your third paragraph -- bravo.

    But man, Bish, I hate that quote. I don't WANNA do stuff I don't wanna do. :)

  6. Great quote. Great post -- there was a discussion on the BB about this. This is a piece of history that shows what it was like, how people viewed the world, and how very difficult it was for slaves -- they weren't even considered human.

    Yesterday I walked in snowy, slushy mush, cleaned mud off my dog, and did not get enough sleep so that I would get my work done. Twain'd be proud.

  7. I really hate ugly words and wish we didn't hear them bandied about so freely nowadays. The sad thing about the N-word is that people use it quite casually now, unaware of the history behind it. They did a poll here in the U.K. and the majority of inner-city kids, black and white, who used the word were astounded to learn about the history of slavery and how pejorative the word once was.

    I couldn't agree with you more about taking the word out of Huckleberry Finn. I don't get that either -- it distorts history. It's like watching a supposedly historical t.v. program that depicts white people befriending their black neighbors, treating them with warmth and dignity. We'd all love to think that happened most of the time, but it's just not so.

    I went for a long walk on icy streets. I'm still shocked and stunned that I stayed upright the entire time.

  8. The problem lies in that political correctness has been taken too far; there's a "cult of victimhood" taking hold of the world. This statement does not condone what was done over centuries to peoples and individuals who have been victimised (gays, Jews, people of colour, women and so on): the pain of ancestral generations who were victimised for their gender, race, sexual preference etc must be an immense burden to carry in the soul.

    But does correcting those imbalances brought about by the nature of prejudice mean that we must become emotionally immature? It takes maturity to be able to decide that one will not succumb to playing the role of victim. One way this can be done is by reading a book or seeing a movie from a previous era as if one was in that era without taking offensive or being overly sensitive to the language and actions of the era.

    Works like Huck Finn (even historical events such as the Holocaust) help humans psychologically evolve as a species. Without Mark Twain and his ilk, would the people who condemn or try to change his words, live in a world where it was even possible to think of changing them? History was as it was. To judge it by today's standards is to compare apples with pears.

    Sorry. That's my rant over! :)

    What duty did I do today? I phoned the dentist and made an appointment. That will be an extremely painful duty! :)

    Judy (South Africa)

  9. I'm loving your rant. This made me so mad. How can anyone change his words? Then they aren't his words anymore. DISGUSTING!

    Oh and I made out a World Studies test today. Didn't wanna, but I had to do it. :) Happy weekend, Bish. :)

  10. I really don't get it either. If we blot out everything unpleasant in the past, how will our children and future generations ever learn from mistakes?

  11. I do understand your "rant," but also know that when a teacher used that word in class in the context of a book they were reading this fall, an African American child in my daughter's class took huge exception. Everything in this world has been toned down for "political correctness," and sometimes it's overkill. This one however, I am unsure of.

  12. Hi Bish, Interesting post, I can only echo what Liza says above I can understand what your point too. My thoughts are this, -what was acceptable 100 years ago is not acceptable today, history has happened and people can't bury it. This reminds me of the Japanese friends I met in Tokyo who told me their history books at school did not talk about losing WWII - it was wiped. (thats quite a different type of editing vs this one though.) I think many books are being updated for todays children to read in language that is appropriate. I don't see this as being bad as long as the entire story remains in tact. Take a look at all the Austenesque versions out there now, some people want to hear yesterdays story in todays language.

    Great post though, you got us thinking! Have a lovely weekend!

  13. Wanting to shift things around is probably the result of us needing everything to be politically correct. Also, I think we're underestimating the capacity of our children to read and put things in proper context.

    Didn't do anything today that I didn't want to, but tomorrow's another day!

  14. Twain's books have been banned in many schools for that word. I find it sad that we are unable to look at a story in it's historical context and not become offended.

    I dealt with an unpleasant situation in a calm and professional manner, when what I really wanted to do was to rant!

  15. Make dinner. Clean. Do laundry. Haha, we just can't get out of these jobs. But, at the same time, when we do something we don't like, it's a good opportunity for the brain to go on auto pilot and that's when some writing epiphanies usually hit!


Your Random Thoughts are most welcome!