I detest mother Grundy’s. I imagine them to be the kind of people who hover over the television set with a clicker counter in hand, fastidiously tallying the number of swear-words they hear, then hogging the network’s switchboard to complain.
They’re usually motivated by some weird racial, religious, political or cultural interpretation of the way society, and by extension the world as a whole, should function.
I mention all of this because I read yesterday that an academic mother Grundy by the name of Alan Gribben intends to publish a new sanitized edition of the Mark Twain classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, denuded of the word nigger – all 219 instances of its use. He intends replacing the ‘n-word with the weasel word “slave.”
Twain’s novel has been banned numerous times in different parts of the world, since it was first published in 1884. But it has survived all these attempts at curtailing free speech to become one of the greatest novels of all time, and proves conclusively that censorship through banning does not work. So it is perhaps for this reason that our mother Grundy has decided to apply a new form of censorship; one that is perhaps more sinister – altering the language to dilute or even totally destroy the original meaning.
And it is no surprise that since Gribben’s intentions became known, the world who by default sit on the opposite side to these mother Grundy’s, have erupted in protest and anger at this outrage. The message is clear – don’t fuck with the words of Mark Twain.
Imagine if we allow this bullshit to take root. How long before The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Lord of the Flies or Slaughterhouse Five become the next victims of these language circumcisers?
I think I’m going to treasure my unadulterated copy of Huckleberry Finn, with a little more appreciation than before.