“An attack upon our ability to tell stories it’s not just censorship- it’s a crime against our nature as human beings.” – Salman Rushdie
Culture & Society
“Kids like Roald Dahl because he’s the weird kid in the playground…”
TORONTO. February 26/23 – There’s a well-known book titled Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words by Josefa Heifetz Byrne. It contains six thousand words of the weirdest, funniest, most useful words in the English language, such as dandiprat, doughfaced, and dotard. Many of them I’ve tested in front of an audience of school children and received a reaction of much laughter to my readings before publishing Captain MacDuddyfunk.
The suggestion that Dahl’s contribution to children’s literature should be tweaked in order to eliminate potentially offensive words such as ugly, fate, thin, idiot, and horsey face are certainly less objectionable by a long shot than some of the words I used in MacDuddyfunk. It makes me wonder if I will suffer the same fate.
“A dangerous new weapon”
As an educator said recently to me, “I think by scrubbing the potentially offensive language used by Dahl in his very popular children’s books, we are overlooking the possibility for some very significant teachable moments.
“And what I mean by that is students can be led to examine the content and discern for themselves what has been considered acceptable in the past and what changes are appropriate for living in our current society.”
“If we start examining the perceived notion that certain commonly used terms published in internationally renowned children’s books are not acceptable, don’t we risk undermining the view, to quote UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, ‘You shouldn’t gobblefunk around the words,’ it affects our rich and varied heritage.”
As it’s been said, “Kids like Roald Dahl because he’s the weird kid in the playground, who wants to show you a box full of worms and slugs. Trying to rewrite him into a preacher of moral virtue is going to ring inevitably false to the spirit of the books.”♦
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