Posted on July 26, 2010
I’ve been building up a head of steam about this all day, so you’re getting the full monty, on my soapbox, high horse, both barrels blog post.
This is about the news that the publishers of the legendary Enid Blyton stories, Hodder & Staughton, have decided that the language in the books is a little outdated and needs to be edited to bring it upto date.
So all the ‘jolly japes’, ‘golly goshes’ and ‘lashings of ginger beer’ will now be replaced with ‘fun’ ‘oh’s’ and ‘guzzled a can of coke’ (ginger is a pejorative term and is now forbidden)
Apparently, they think children will stop reading the books as they won’t be able to understand this ‘old’ language and they need to do this updating to ensure the continued success of the books into the future. They are starting with The Faraway Tree and Famous Five.
Well what utter shite. Utter utter UTTER shite.
When I read the books in the 1970’s, the words and phrases were already long gone from pouplar English and did it matter to me? No, it did not. Did it matter to Jay when she read them, even though she grew up in working class Sheffield in England’s industrial North? No, it did not.
Did it matter to Anja and Piper, who have never left the state of Western Australia, let alone been to England, when they read them in the 2000’s? No, it did not.
Did it matter to a generation of children in-between? No, it did not.
They still sell 500,000 copies a year of the Famous Five series alone and it is the number one book on loan in libraries. Hardly a book on the verge of going out of print.
So why then, is it assumed that children of the 2010’s are suddenly of such a reduced intellectual capacity that they cannot understand the phrase ‘how peculiar’ when the likes of books by AA Milne, Beatrix Potter, Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss etc haven’t been changed at all, even though the language is old and context of the stories is long gone.
So, Hodder and Staughton, you are wrong about this. Totally and utterly wrong.
It is not just about the nostalgia, or language and the capability to understand it, but also about where this leads us to. Do we need to change Shakespeare, Keats, Chaucer and Jane Austen for modern audiences too? Leave them alone, celebrate their language and their setting and the context in which they were written, they are history and should never be rewritten or we will lose the whole reference for that period in time.