Who’s afraid of the big, bad word?

Over the break, the world managed to not collapse completely, but many new and exciting headlines were shoved in our faces next to the cranberry dressing and green bean casserole.

One that has gained more media attention as time has passed involves a high school classic and rips it to shreds all in the name of being politically correct.

Alan Gribben, a professor at Auburn University at Montgomery, has taken it upon himself to edit the timeless words of Mr. Mark Twain because they are too offensive. He has replaced “nigger” with “slave” the 219 times it appears and has changed “injun” to “Indian.”

The new editions will be sold together and entitled “Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn: The NewSouth Edition.”

Since the copyright on this piece has expired, it is not an issue of legalities but a question of morals and integrity.

His reasoning behind the edits is that the words make the book too uncomfortable for students to read and therefore the language is hindering the learning experience.

The biggest complaint about the revisions is that, by definition, “slave” is not a synonym for “nigger,” and it did not mean the same to be called one or the other in the timeframe.
In the same sense, the use of “injun” is both a representation of the southern dialect and a derogatory term for Native Americans, and to simply be called an Indian in 1844 did not carry the same connotation.

The easiest solution to this problem is to reserve the usage of the novels to high school literature classes where students have had the time to process that the history of the South is not the most beautiful of scenes, but without it, we could not be where we are today.

Children cannot grasp the concept of why the story is written the way it is and that Twain chose his words with precision not only to tell a story, but to tell his story as realistically as possible. While these novels might not represent the best part of our history, it is still something that happened and cannot be erased, no matter how many times you hit delete.

Across the country, people of all ages have voiced their opinion on the situation, both embracing and destroying the idea of changing the 135-year-old words.

With the words removed, the story does not lose its plot or overall meaning, but it loses the power of imagery.

Every time a student reads the NewSouth edition, they will see the word “slave” and still remember that it has been changed. The uncomfortable feeling that comes with reading dramatic literature still holds strong, regardless of what words are changed.

To not be offended by the intentional language, look at the book as a historical text and not just a work of fiction. Should we edit The Diary of Anne Frank because the images described are too graphic for people to read?

Although we as Americans do have many things to be proud of from both our history and our current state, we must also be able to objectively look at the past and learn from the mistakes our ancestors made.

A book is just a book; a word is just a word. The fear that can come from letters strung together is based on a power that we give it, and we’re giving a six-letter word a power that no word deserves.

@ The Daily Mississippian — Oxford, Miss.


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