Patterico's Pontifications

1/5/2011

More on That Moron Who Is Bowdlerizing Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 pm



Allahpundit passed on the topic yesterday because he couldn’t imagine a prominent liberal dumb enough to defend the idea of censoring “Huck Finn” to save it. Allahpundit acknowledged today that he hadn’t counted on Nick Kristof:

If censoring Huck Finn will help get a great book back on h.s. reading lists, isn’t that worth it?

Once Allahpundit spoke up, his take was typically pithy and on point:

It’s historically false, it betrays Twain’s intent, it sets a horrible revisionist precedent for other great works, and maybe worst of all, it misses the point of why the slurs are there. Twain’s goal, of course, wasn’t to gratuitously dehumanize blacks, it was to use the sympathy you feel for Jim to make you feel the injustice of that casual day-to-day dehumanization. . . . [W]hat kind of high school teacher are you if you can’t explain the difference between a racist book and a book that uses racist language to argue against racism?

They had great fun with this over at Reason.com, where one wag suggested that the “Twain scholar” was about to come out with a new Melville edition titled “Moby Penis.” But the best comment was from a fellow who reprinted this central passage from the book:

So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn’t know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I’ll go and write the letter–and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:

Miss Watson, your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send.

HUCK FINN.

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking–thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, ‘stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the ONLY one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

“All right, then, I’ll GO to hell”–and tore it up.

If you don’t read the book at all, you need only read this passage to get a good sense of it.

Yeah, let’s censor that.

Don’t you want to wring the necks of the idiots who want to alter writing like this in any way?

If you don’t, you’re a better (and less violent) man than I.

UPDATE: If you’d like to listen to the “scholar” who is screwing with this classic work, you may do so by clicking here. From the transcript:

Absolutely. And that’s why I only fucked with the one word. But that word has proved to be quite a hurdle for many younger readers, their parents and their teachers.

. . . .

Well, there are nine references to the N-word in “Tom Sawyer,” and those were bowdlerized to slave. And the debasement of the native peoples, I think, has probably proceeded far enough.

I also retired the archaic Injun term and – however, I left the racial denominator Indian because it helps explain why the villain in the story feels so alienated from the village as the frontier has receded away from the village and he’s stranded there and treated, he feels, disrespectfully.

. . . .

Why is this word so precious to some people? I just don’t understand. You would think that that is just the most precious word in the English language, the way some people grow defensive about it. Oh, it must be in there. It must be in there. And yet slave hardly carries any good connotations. It’s abhorrent in the civilized world today and works very well, I think, in this book. And again, I just want to emphasize that person is free not to purchase the book, not to read the book and to turn to the other authoritative editions that I recommend.

Thanks for that freedom, Mr. Scholar!! (Which, I bet, you’d like to take away from me.) But it’s good to know that — for now, at least! — it’s OK with this cretin if we go ahead and read the version Twain actually wrote.

By the way, I tampered with only one word in quoting that transcript. And by “one,” I mean two.* But you are free, of course, to follow the link to the actual transcript, and read that, instead of the version I screwed with. So, you know, it’s all good.

76 Responses to “More on That Moron Who Is Bowdlerizing Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn”

  1. If you’re too lazy to click, I changed “tampered” to “fucked” and “altered” to “bowdlerized.”

    I think it’s pretty much the same meaning, don’t you? And it’s not like Prof. Gribben owns his own words, right?

    Patterico (c218bd)

  2. Reminds me of Yale University self-censoring a book examining extreme Muslim reaction to the publication of Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad by deleting the cartoons from the book, only different.

    daleyrocks (e7bc4f)

  3. I listened to that drivel live on the radio. I almost had a wreck.

    JD (b98cae)

  4. Isn’t this so-called “scholar” also taking out “Injun”? It’s been years since I’ve read Tom Sawyer (and it bored me to death) but iirc Injun Joe was a character’s name.

    In fact there was a cave on Tom Sawyer’s Island at Disneyland with a sign that said “Injun Joe’s Cave” beside the entrance. The sign is gone now that Tom Sawyer’s Island has been converted to Pirate’s Lair. Sometimes I wonder if the conversion wasn’t just because they wanted to tie more of the Pirates franchise into the park but of idiots complaining about the word “Injun.”

    wherestherum (ea3be5)

  5. Just remember, these are ‘smart’ people you morons.

    Ag80 (e03e7a)

  6. They changed “injun” too?

    How in the world are you to understand that this kind of comment was associated with casual ignorance?

    This is really insane. The truth is that a lot of people held natives and slaves in very poor regard, and that was reflected in the dialogue. It’s the reality of the sentiment that is the problem rather than the actual word.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  7. It’s the reality of the sentiment that is the problem rather than the actual word.

    It seems to me the people who do crap like this have no sense of context or just blatantly ignore it to push an agenda. It’s maddening.

    wherestherum (ea3be5)

  8. I mean to italicize that part of your quote. Sorry about that.

    wherestherum (ea3be5)

  9. My 81 year old mom and I were discussing this today. She grew up during in a time and place where Indians experienced great discrimination and because her immediate family opted to live off of the rez, they faced it not from just the white community but also from fellow tribe members. My experiences were far less than hers in this modern day.

    She was appalled that one arrogant man could presume to make such alterations. I whole heartedly agreed with her. We then decided that his act of replacing Injun with Indian was yet another self-interested maneuver of the white man: because we Injuns can’t handle the historical truth, we needed a white men to whitewash it for us. Heh.

    I’m offended by his lack of sensitivity to those of us who have personally experienced the slurs and that he thinks we need his help.

    Dana (8ba2fb)

  10. the democrats are looking into doing something similar to the constitution, cutting out offensive terms like:

    right to bear arms
    freedom of speech
    freedom of the press
    shall not be infringed

    Aaron Worthing (1a6294)

  11. You cannot get the full experience, the depths of his asshattery, without listening to it.

    JD (0d2ffc)

  12. we Injuns can’t handle the historical truth, we needed a white men to whitewash it for us.

    Dana, that’s my impression of the motivation behind this.

    Black kids need Authority to shield them from the burden of understanding American History. Native Americans, or whatever the PC term is for these Americans, need some kind of protection too, as though there is only so much they can take from *books*.

    Our history is not perfect because it is human history. It is really unfortunate that we do not really dig into what was evil about racial ideas on the 18th century, because some people deeply misunderstand the problem and think it’s mere inequality of results on some scorecard rather than the awful idea of treating people according to their race.

    I get a real whiff of that, though care is placed to spin the blame around.

    ‘What’s wrong with the term slave? That works well because that word has a bad connotation! Is the N word precious to you? It must be the most sacred word in your world!’

    This guy is an attention whore. He’s doing this to be controversial. It is arrogant, but mostly it’s just sad, because as AP says, it’s a matter of teaching to explain the difference between a lesson on racism and a racist lesson.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  13. Dustin, ironically in my home, I am loving referred to as the Injun. By the white hub. That’ll make Dr. Gribben’s head spin. Heh.

    Dana (8ba2fb)

  14. eh, loving lovingly

    Dana (8ba2fb)

  15. Dana, my mom calls me a banana – yellow on the outside and white on the inside. (I’m Chinese, for reference.) An Israeli friend of mine in college gave me the nickname Twinkie for the same reason. I think it’s funny. I’m sure the pc police would be horrified.

    wherestherum (ea3be5)

  16. That’s cute, wherestherum. My hub is fondly referred to as the Okie at times (and in light of the Mark Twain fiasco, he would like to know when he can safely read Grapes of Wrath again – without being scarred by Okie references!).

    Dana (8ba2fb)

  17. Better Half and her siblings, cousins, etc .. all call each other chink, slant, you name it.

    Dustin – native American is insensitive. The proper term is first persons.

    JD (57c1da)

  18. ___________________________________________

    he couldn’t imagine a prominent liberal dumb enough

    Allahpundit must not live in the 21st century if he believes that. The left has become so absurdly, ludicrously dumbed down over the past several decades that it’s naive to ever assume they can’t sink even lower.

    As for the “N” word? How idiotic that a variety of liberals, so wedded to political correctness, become complacent about, if not slyly approving of, the use of “nigger this…nigger that” when placed in the context of rap music or when mouthed by streetwise, hip, cool black dudes. Sort of a variation of all those women’s libbers — almost all of the left — who are super PC about gender etiquette and so disdainful of male chauvinism, yet who just love Bill Clinton like there is no tomorrow. And who, come to think of it, also never or rarely spout off about the rude, crude, “females are hos” nature of rap music.

    All of this is merely another form of limousine liberalism gone off the deep end.

    Mark (411533)

  19. Thanks for that freedom, Mr. Scholar!! (Which, I bet, you’d like to take away from me.)

    No generalizing about Twain scholars, now. We’re not all a bad lot. (That said, though not about you, the irony is that a number of the people who are defending Twain as “untouchable literature” wouldn’t do so if they knew a wee bit more about him.

    SEK (1d9681)

  20. Link whoring is so unbecoming, seks. The idea that people are defending this as “untouchable literature” is a construct that only a college professor could come up with, a convenient straw man. The n-bomb is precious, and tax cuts are racist. Seeks and his band of idiots will be happy to tell you so.

    JD (57c1da)

  21. SEK,

    Misanthropy was Twain’s primary characteristic. He camouflaged it with humorous wordsmithing, but he just plain did not like people.

    I think Patterico is talking about something else.

    nk (db4a41)

  22. ARGH! Changing a word is stealth censorship, and it’s the top of a very slippery slope. The same PC police will next decide which of Whitman’s erotic imagery will be sanitized, which of Poe’s admittedly drug-trip-inspired horror stories will be cleansed of any reference to drugs. Maybe Shakespeare’s works would also be rendered free of all non-PC references to women, Moors (Muslims), Jews, and others.

    Taxpayer (6b272d)

  23. @9 – Interesting. Context matters and prejudices can die hard. Had a similar chat with my own 80 year old mother about Twain– and Japan. Her take was anything over 75 years old and still alive and kicking– or still in print– is a classic, if not an antique, and has stood the test of time. Japan was another matter. Her own mother steadfastly refused to own anything made in Japan as late as 1980, when it became near-impossible to find her an affordable television set that wasn’t. Memories of Pearl Harbor. Indeed, while dining at a fashionable riverfront eatery in Pittsburgh, she went so far as to challenge the restraunteur for using cutlery with steel stamped ‘made in Japan’ in the Steel City.

    DCSCA (9d1bb3)

  24. When I first read HF, that passage stopped me cold. Huck, despite his personal beliefs & upbringing, put his friendship with Jim ahead of his hope of Heaven and risked eternal damnation. If I was ever in such a situation, I would hope to have the moral courage to make Huck’s choice.

    Longwalker (996c34)

  25. I hate to be the party pooper and disagree with you all, but I repeat my objection from the last thread on this topic: if it were true that this change “betrays Twain’s intent” and that as Patterico wrote “the hurtful nature of the word “nigger” is the whole fucking point” then I’d agree with you all, but to the best of my knowledge it isn’t.

    I know that outside the USA “nigger” was not at all offensive until recently. I also know that in the USA it was considered offensive quite early, early enough that W.S. Gilbert removed the two occurrences of the word from The Mikado when he heard that it wasn’t going down well with American audiences. But as far as I know in Twain’s day it did not have anything like the punch it has today. My impression is that it was considered impolite, crude, not for use in polite company, but nothing that would give anyone vapours, let alone reduce them to tears or make them unable to appreciate the work in which it appeared. Something like “fucking” today, or perhaps even milder, like “damn” or “shit”.

    And if my impression is correct, then this Gribben fellow is not betraying Twain’s intent, he’s not fucking with the integrity of the work, on the contrary he’s trying to restore the reader’s experience to that which Twain intended in the first place. Now maybe I’m wrong; if I am show me. Cite some evidence that in the USA of the 1880s “nigger” was a hateful and hurtful word, one that carried great emotional baggage, and was capable of causing the sort of hysterics (not to mention histrionics) that it does today. Show me that there were people whose enjoyment of a book could be marred by the word’s appearance. If you can’t, then how is this change worse than Gilbert’s self-bowdlerisation, or than the retitling of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Niggers?

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  26. Because mention of pork and pork products is offensive to Muslims, references to pork should be changed to poultry references. Hence, Shakespeare’s great tragic hero Hamlet will become Chicklet.

    RNB (6a1e7d)

  27. RNB, do you deny that, in the USA today, “nigger” is a seriously offensive word, that it actually hurts some people to hear it, and that if an author were to use it today without a very good reason she’d deserve condemnation?

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  28. Oh, and nobody is offended by the name “Hamlet”. Go away, troll.

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  29. That said, it all depends on the target audience. The official Hebrew translation of Green Eggs and Ham never names the food in question. It’s fascinating to read through the book and watch the narrator duck and weave around what it is that he won’t eat.

    And when I read the English version to young’uns I simply substitute “lamb”.

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  30. Someone may recall the not so long ago castigation of a public servant for the use of the word “niggardly”, even though used in its proper context. Perhaps it was just some local offense taken by the ilk of Sharpton/Jackson types, but it sticks out in my mind.

    Calypso Louie Farrakhan (798aba)

  31. So, when will these liberal “scholars” demand that the N-word be banned from gangsta rap?

    Gregory of Yardale (db9fb3)

  32. Link whoring is so unbecoming

    You’ll note that mention that that particular bit of Twain isn’t otherwise available online. (Or wasn’t, at least, when I transcribed it.)

    The idea that people are defending this as “untouchable literature” is a construct that only a college professor could come up with

    So what you’re saying is that it’s not about the inviolability of the text, but just this particular amendation of it? Because that seems at odds with the point Patrick makes here.

    Misanthropy was Twain’s primary characteristic. He camouflaged it with humorous wordsmithing, but he just plain did not like people.

    My point was that the outrage over this ideologically driven editorial decision is based, for many people, in ideology — call it anti-anti-racism, anti-political correctness, etc. — and that that ideology is held primarily by those on the right side of the political spectrum who would not, for example, find favor with the selection I quoted, or his “War Prayer,” etc.

    SEK (1d9681)

  33. Why is it that when people like SEKs say “so what you are saying” they inevitably are wrong wrong wrong?

    If you disagree with SEKS you are anti-anti-racism. Plus, you conservatives are racists.

    JD (57c1da)

  34. I’d be perfectly happy to change it—to “uruk-hai.” But then I’m a Tolkien geek.

    Technomad (68379e)

  35. Some are full on Nazguls.

    narciso (6075d0)

  36. Why is it that when people like SEKs say “so what you are saying” they inevitably are wrong wrong wrong?

    So your kneejerk reaction to being called racist doesn’t entail the belief that those on the left are the real racists? Well then, you’re in the minority there.

    SEK (1d9681)

  37. I hope this guy will also do a remake of “Blazing Saddles” so that will be again safe to watch.

    Dudeman (81d33c)

  38. SEKs is making sure that he keeps his resolution to be a bigger dick in 2011 than he was in 2010. So far, so good.

    JD (57c1da)

  39. SEK:

    That quote you linked was funny. I still think you shouldn’t change Twain’s words and call them his own.

    As for this point of yours:

    My point was that the outrage over this ideologically driven editorial decision is based, for many people, in racism . . .

    I disagree. We are not being racist.

    I should note that, to make your quote more palatable, I did amend one word of it. But your original quote is up there, and readers are free to read it, so it’s all good.

    JD: Go easy on SEK, man. I like the guy and enjoy his commentary even when I disagree with it. Please don’t call him a “dick” unless the justification is far clearer than what I see evidenced in this thread.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  40. So your kneejerk reaction to being called racist doesn’t entail the belief that those on the left are the real racists? Well then, you’re in the minority there.

    My reaction, and I bet JD’s as well, entails the belief that there are some on the left who are real racists. And some of the worst ones are those who strain to call those on the right racist.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  41. do you deny that, in the USA today, “nigger” is a seriously offensive word, that it actually hurts some people to hear it

    More often than not, today people respond to it with emotional posturing. They react emotionally to gain power in a situation. If it were truly offensive, Rap music would not exist, and many people would loose a quarter of their vocabulary.

    quasimodo (4af144)

  42. Comment by SEK — 1/6/2011 @ 6:46 am

    I personally think “nigger” is a dirtier word than “motherfucker”. I am on the side of Patterico in this mainly just to let Twain’s work speak for itself. For good or bad.

    I have a head full of books, SEK, and it’s too bad you and I fell out because we could have have had some interesting conversations.

    nk (db4a41)

  43. “[Y]ou shouldn’t change Twain’s words and call them his own.”

    This is the key element here.

    Feel free to bowdlerize the text. Just don’t lie and call it the author’s text. Instead, change it to “inspired by the writings of…”

    steve miller (6d2045)

  44. SEK:

    Your point is obscure.

    Are you saying we don’t really care about the authorial integrity, but instead just enjoy saying the n-word out of some desire to offend?

    That Twain, having held some views that could be termed leftist, would also have subscribed to political correctness?

    That readers here would not credit Twain with greatness if they knew he had written things that could be termed leftist?

    Or something that makes more sense?

    Patterico (1c3ab0)

  45. nk,

    Make up with the guy. I have talked with him on the phone. He’s not a bad guy.

    Patterico (1c3ab0)

  46. @3 C’mon, JD. you know better than to think and drive.

    DCSCA (9d1bb3)

  47. “My point was that the outrage over this ideologically driven editorial decision is based, for many people, in ideology”

    SEK – So what you are saying is that the so called “political correctness” movement is primarily a liberal construct?

    daleyrocks (e7bc4f)

  48. I will be nicer, when SEKS quits insinuating that people that disagree with him are racists. 😉 calling someone a dlck in response to his anti-anti-racist drivel seems reasonable. YMMV

    JD (57c1da)

  49. Black folks use the “N word” all the time referring to other blacks. Sometimes as a derogatory term, sometimes as an endearment. The hypocrisy of this doesn’t occur to them.

    DN (322684)

  50. Dashiell Hammett used the term “Nigger Nick’s” about 60 years after Huckleberry Finn. The Coen brothers changed it to “Whiskey Nick’s” 60 years after that.

    Used to be moron. Then it was imbecile. Then it was retarded. Now retarded is politically incorrect.

    Patterico mentioned Orwell. And Orwell’s main thesis is that we are a nuncupative species and words shape our thoughts.

    nk (db4a41)

  51. By which I mean to say that whatsisname is changing historical culture by editing 19th literature.

    nk (db4a41)

  52. *19th century*

    nk (db4a41)

  53. I have to say that I think it’s insane to suggest people wanting to preserve Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer are motivated by racism. That’s just absurd, or at least extremely improbable, and demands much more evidence than someone’s guess. That kind of idea either is based on great evidence or is simply a nasty slur.

    I don’t think Huck Finn is great because the characters and author are all perfect, but rather because the author and characters are extremely flawed and struggling to overcome some of those flaws. It’s a more legitimate discussion of racism because of the personal flaws.

    Someone’s going to call us a name we don’t like at some point in our lives, so Operation Insulate From Reality is not going to work. Teach those kids about hard truths, instead of trying to change them. American History can’t be edited, and those who edit this book are simply liars.

    Milhouse seems to think that changes in our language can justify this project, or make it less offensive, but that’s wrong. TEACH through that problem. People should learn how to put themselves in context.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  54. Doesn’t seem like that big a deal to me. Television has been editing things out of movies for years (or at least they did when I used to watch the idiot box many years ago).

    I would think, out of courtesy to the author, that if you were going to print an edited version of Twain you would note that the objectionable words have been taken out. Just note it on the cover somewhere, and off you go.

    Dave Surls (ebbada)

  55. SEK would, of course, completely change his tune if we were discussing, say, Piss Christ.

    Icy Texan (03b6f8)

  56. 31. So, when will these liberal “scholars” demand that the N-word be banned from gangsta rap?
    Comment by Gregory of Yardale — 1/6/2011 @ 6:25 am

    — Don’t hold your breath.

    Icy Texan (03b6f8)

  57. Dave, that brings up an interesting solution. Just bleep out the N word instead of making it something much more palatable. Something nasty was occurring when Jim was called that. Something very unfair that speaks to his less-than-person status in the story.

    Better to bleep it out with obvious blackout akin to confidential material, and as you note, explain why in the beginning of the book.

    I still would disagree with it. I think kids can handle the topic. But that’s a lot more honest than hiding the changes.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  58. Milhouse:
    in Act I, the character goes through a “little list” of “society offenders” who, if executed, “would not be missed”. One of these is “the nigger serenader and the others of his race”. Gilbert’s reference was to blackface minstrels who were white entertainers in makeup, not to dark skinned people.

    — Looking things up is hard, isn’t it buddy?

    Icy Texan (03b6f8)

  59. In the politically-correct versions of Mark Twain, words such as “white-washing” would be changed to what — “blanching”?

    Icy Texan (03b6f8)

  60. Patterico–to be honest, the use of the word “nigger” is totally irrelevant to the passage you quote. Changing it to “your negro Jim” (which would be closer in meaning to Twain as he was understood by 19th century readers than “your slave Jim”) does absolutely nothing to diminish the impact and the meaning of the passage.

    As I understand it, changing Twain’s words is intended to let the book get by the PC police who refuse to let the unrevised version be read in schools. I’d suggest training your fire on the PC police and not the man who’s trying to make an end round around them.

    Or at least, take aim at those projects to which completely rewrite the classic text into an unrecognizable form, like Disney did when it changed Hunchback of NotreDame from an almost nihilistic story in which all but one of the sympathetic characters (among whom is the Archdeacon) die and the only other survivor (Phoebus) is egocentric to the point of narcicissim, into a feel good tale that wipes out all of the emotional complexity of the Archdeacon’s character, changes Phoebus into a standard Disney hero, completely drops out the scandalous back story of Esmerelda and her mother, and lets everyone live happily ever after–yet still pretends it’s the same story that Hugo wrote.

    kishnevi (1b86f1)

  61. Okay, kishnevi, it’s time to put on your thinkin’ beanie. The point is that Twain chose to write it the way he did. Criticize it all you want, but feel free to table the suggestion that there is an ‘acceptable alternative’. If Twain did not authorize it, then it’s NOT acceptable.

    I’d suggest training your fire on the PC police and not the man who’s trying to make an end [run] around them.
    — Whether they are working in concert (have you even considered the possibility), or the man is making an ‘end run’, they’re equally deserving of scorn.

    Or at least, take aim at those projects to which completely rewrite the classic text into an unrecognizable form, like Disney did when it changed Hunchback of NotreDame
    — Funny. I wasn’t aware that Disney managed to replace Hugo’s classic text with their version in school libraries. Citations please?

    Icy Texan (03b6f8)

  62. If Kishnevi is correct that “nigger” was no different that “negro” in Huck, that itself is a valuable point worth teaching about.

    All of this is much better handled by leaving the book alone and discussing these aspects.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  63. I read the fight scene from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped” to a bunch of eight year olds in my daughter’s third grade class. It was bloody. Ten or so people were killed.

    We also learned about the Scottish custom of personal, family and clan names. And the Scottish revolt against King George II, the grandfather of our King George III. And that the good guys do not always win.

    I’m a 100% with Patterico on this. Leave the books alone no matter the content.

    nk (db4a41)

  64. I still think you shouldn’t change Twain’s words and call them his own.

    Nor do I, and didn’t mean to imply as much.

    We are not being racist.

    Didn’t say you were: I was pointing, more generally, to the claim by many on the right that the reall racists reside on the left, because of course there are none on the right.

    My reaction … entails the belief that there are some on the left who are real racists.

    I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment, but this:

    And some of the worst ones are those who strain to call those on the right racist.

    Seems a little too general to me. I call out people whose logic strikes me as being grounded in racism when I see it, and I don’t consider myself racist in the least. Hell, you and I had a whole to-do about the Gates affair, and I never thought to call you a racist either, because I don’t believe you’re one. Id o think you and you-know-who’s predilection to shout “RACIST!” when the issue’s raised is a bit overcompensatory, but that’s only because The Donalde does it too.

    I am on the side of Patterico in this mainly just to let Twain’s work speak for itself.

    I am too, and now am a little confused as to why anyone would think otherwise. I’m an historicist, and as such am generally dismissive of any cleansing of the historical record, Twain’s works being a part of them. My general point above was that many of the people who are appalled at the exclusion of “nigger” from this edition of Huck Finn would also like to jettison discussion of evolutionary theory from the classroom, hence my link above.

    Your point is obscure.

    I’m getting that, and it’s probably my fault.

    Are you saying we don’t really care about the authorial integrity, but instead just enjoy saying the n-word out of some desire to offend?

    No, you’re not Goldstein, who 1) doesn’t care about textual integrity if he divines some different authorial intent in the book and 2) says “nigger” for the thrill of it.

    That Twain, having held some views that could be termed leftist, would also have subscribed to political correctness?

    See above about the complaints linked to evolutionary theory. As for whether Clemens would’ve abided political correctness, there’s no doubt in my mind that he wouldn’t: he was a professional contrarian whose actual views are frequently inscrutable. For example, he loved everything about Europe, but mocked it mercilessly in all his travel books — mocked most harshly, in fact, those elements of it his letters reveal he loved the most. (When he was still young and capable of love, that is.)

    That readers here would not credit Twain with greatness if they knew he had written things that could be termed leftist?

    Not readers here. The “not about you” was an extensive claim, encompassing yourself and all your readers whose initials don’t match your degree.

    So what you are saying is that the so called “political correctness” movement is primarily a liberal construct?

    Is this a controversial claim? I didn’t think it was. The only time those on the right exhibit similar behaviors is when it involves scrubbing the word “Christmas” from holiday celebrations. (Which, ironically, is a reaction to the politically correct-mindedness that caused it to be scrubbed. A low tide lowers all boats, etc.)

    SEK (1d9681)

  65. the use of the word “nigger” is totally irrelevant to the passage you quote.

    No, it isn’t. There are a number of ways to approach this — e.g. Fishkin’s “Was Huck Black?” argues that Huck’s vocabulary indicates he spoke black dialect is a stretch, but not poorly argued — but we don’t need to demonstrate anything about Huck’s speech patterns to justify his use of the word “nigger.” All we have to do is acknowledge that it was a phrase that referred, in a non-derogatory fashion, to enslaved blacks, but was applied, in a derogatory fashion, to free ones. If you lose the word, you lose the distinction. (The definitive work on the book and the history of its censorship is Jonathan Arac’s Huck Finn as Idol and Target, and I highly recommend it to interested parties.)

    SEK (1d9681)

  66. “My general point above was that many of the people who are appalled at the exclusion of “nigger” from this edition of Huck Finn would also like to jettison discussion of evolutionary theory from the classroom, hence my link above.”

    SEK – I have not seen you present any evidence of your contention above, which seems more projection and religious bigotry on your part. Not sure what the amusing link has to do with cleansing evolutionary theory from the classroom in any event.

    daleyrocks (e7bc4f)

  67. The point is that Twain chose to write it the way he did. Criticize it all you want, but feel free to table the suggestion that there is an ‘acceptable alternative’

    When Twain chose to use that word, the word was less offensive. I won’t pretend to say what Twain would have found to be an acceptable alternative, but the word was much more in daily use back then. It was much more in daily use when I was a kid, for that matter, along with associated expressions like n— rich and n— shower. It was never a word that was not insulting in some degree, but it was not out of bounds like it is now. There is an equivalent now in use, at least among blacks, that corresponds exactly to what the word meant back when I was a kid–“ghetto”, which is always used to insult or criticize its target. But a reader who encountered the word in 1911 would not find it as offensive as a reader in 2011. Words and their meanings do change. For a non controversial example, if you’re not familiar with it, check out what the word “computer” meant in Twain’s lifetime. (Hint: computers in his era were much prettier than computers in our own era.)
    So to say that Twain chose the word, and we must leave it at that, is missing the point–the word he wrote and the word we read are, despite the fact that they are spelled and pronounced the same, not exactly the same word.

    Funny. I wasn’t aware that Disney managed to replace Hugo’s classic text with their version in school libraries.

    I was thinking of the film Disney made (which no doubt can be found in the DVD section of most public libraries), and which doubtless is the form in which countless kids now encounter the story for the first time. If you ever have the chance to see it–don’t.

    kishnevi (38f6c3)

  68. Ignorance can be fought. Wilfull ignorance is best ignored.

    Ag80 (e03e7a)

  69. I still think you shouldn’t change Twain’s words and call them his own.

    Nor do I, and didn’t mean to imply as much.

    We are not being racist.

    Didn’t say you were: I was pointing, more generally, to the claim by many on the right that the reall racists reside on the left, because of course there are none on the right.

    You act as though you don’t understand the joke I made in the comment you are responding to. You’re not going to make me explain it, are you? I hate explaining jokes.

    Also, if there are people who believe there are no racists on the right, please go argue with them. There is nobody here who doesn’t understand that, so making the point here has that strawman-ey feel.

    My reaction … entails the belief that there are some on the left who are real racists.

    I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment, but this:

    And some of the worst ones are those who strain to call those on the right racist.

    Seems a little too general to me. I call out people whose logic strikes me as being grounded in racism when I see it, and I don’t consider myself racist in the least.

    Huh. Do you consider yourself to be someone who strains to call people on the right racists?

    What’s that? You don’t?

    Then I wasn’t talking about you. Internet discussion is far less frustrating when it takes account of what the other guy actually says. Here, you ignored my use of the word “strain.”. I used it for a reason. Whyever did you ignore my use of the word?

    Hell, you and I had a whole to-do about the Gates affair, and I never thought to call you a racist either, because I don’t believe you’re one. Id o think you and you-know-who’s predilection to shout “RACIST!” when the issue’s raised is a bit overcompensatory, but that’s only because The Donalde does it too.

    Hm. Maybe you *are* someone who strains to call people on the right racist. No, you say? Then please explain what you mean by the word “overcompensatory” here.

    And I know for a fact that you know the difference between me and Donald Douglas. So please don’t mush us together. That is lazy.

    I am on the side of Patterico in this mainly just to let Twain’s work speak for itself.

    I am too, and now am a little confused as to why anyone would think otherwise.

    I’m confused as to why you’re confused. If you had simply expressed your agreement you might have perplexed fewer people. But instead you insisted on making some obscure. contrarian, and mostly incoherent point to refute broad-brush strawmen positions held by nobody who frequents this blog.

    Why you did that, I have no idea.

    If you can name a single regular here who “would … like to jettison discussion of evolutionary theory from the classroom” then please do so. Otherwise your arguments belong in another venue.

    If you respond to nothing else, please elaborate on your use of the word “overcompensatory” above. I am tempted to be offended by it, but I will let you explain first.

    Patterico (7f6ae3)

  70. Not readers here. The “not about you” was an extensive claim, encompassing yourself and all your readers whose initials don’t match your degree.

    Well, JD? SEK showed that Twain said some lefty sounding things. Do you therefore deny Twain was great?

    You don’t? Then it seems like SEK is being unfair to you.

    Then again, you said he was being a dick earlier.

    Why don’t we all stop the personal sniping? How about that?

    Patterico (7f6ae3)

  71. JD and I are overcompensatory racists.

    Patterico (7f6ae3)

  72. One more thing: those who think the n-word is completely unheard of nowadays are leading sheltered lives.

    There are many, many people for whom the word is used every single hour of every single day, as casually as you and I might say “dude.” I’m not just talking about white racists or rappers.

    Patterico (7f6ae3)

  73. It’s hard to tell with Mark Twain, he remained an enigma all his life, but I tend to believe that he was not mean to colored people, he was mean to people who were mean to colored people. Or all people.

    I also tend to like dogs better than people most of the time. 😉

    Sorry about your family sorrows, Kishnevi. Best wishes for the best result.

    nk (db4a41)

  74. “If you can name a single regular here who “would … like to jettison discussion of evolutionary theory from the classroom” then please do so. Otherwise your arguments belong in another venue.”

    Patterico – Somebody else noticed that too! SEK did not actually name anyone who was appalled by the use of the n word who also wanted to jettison evolutionary theory from the classroom on this blog or elsewhere.

    daleyrocks (e7bc4f)

  75. Comment by kishnevi — 1/6/2011 @ 8:40 pm

    When Twain chose to use that word, the word was less offensive.
    — Less offensive to whom? The mainly white audience for the book? And if so . . . so?

    I won’t pretend to say what Twain would have found to be an acceptable alternative, but the word was much more in daily use back then.
    — Really? Ever listened to rap? Ever listened to suburban white rap fans living vicariously through the black rappers that they listen to? Watch black comedians uncensored?

    It was much more in daily use when I was a kid, for that matter, along with associated expressions like n— rich and n— shower.
    — Got news for ya: it’s much more in daily use for kids than adults these days as well. Kinda goes along with immaturity.

    It was never a word that was not insulting in some degree, but it was not out of bounds like it is now.
    — Within so-called ‘polite (white) society’? Sure. But, so what?

    There is an equivalent now in use, at least among blacks, that corresponds exactly to what the word meant back when I was a kid–”ghetto”, which is always used to insult or criticize its target.
    — ‘Ghetto Jim’ does roll off the tongue, doesn’t it?

    But a reader who encountered the word in 1911 would not find it as offensive as a reader in 2011.
    — Granted, but so what? No one can learn lessons from history if that history is altered to reflect the prevailing mood of the present. What’s next? Do you attempt to teach students about the injustice of Japanese-American internment camps while sanitizing the use of derogatory terms such as “Japs” (among other much-worse slang)? Do you keep things in context? or do you tell students, “Trust me, it used to be much worse”?

    So to say that Twain chose the word, and we must leave it at that, is missing the point–the word he wrote and the word we read are, despite the fact that they are spelled and pronounced the same, not exactly the same word.
    — Ever heard of a study guide? Ever heard of the idea that the teacher assigning “Huckleberry Finn” as reading material conducts discussion sessions with the class about such topics as, say for example, THE USE OF THE WORD “NIGGER” IN THIS NOVEL AT THAT TIME IN HISTORY?

    I was thinking of the film Disney made (which no doubt can be found in the DVD section of most public libraries), and which doubtless is the form in which countless kids now encounter the story for the first time. If you ever have the chance to see it–don’t.
    — And my point is that, as far as I know, schools are not replacing copies of the original novel with the Disney version. It’s an apples & oranges comparison.

    Icy Texan (87db83)

  76. Hello? kishnevi? Anybody home?

    Icy Texan (8455ee)


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