Waugh Wednesday – does a racist word need to be changed in the modern age

Well the latest Waugh story I read Multa Pencunia ,another of Waugh’s junior stories written when he was 9 ,a story about sir Alfred that had brought a unusual book with the same title as the story ,that disappears now when the book is discovered to have Gone missing Tom sir Alfred’s son says –

Jumping Golliwogs  cried Tom 

Now I was taken aback as Golliwogs a word that hasn’t been in usage in Britain since the mid seventies ,it was the name of a black rag doll in the 1800’s ,also was on a famous brand of Jam in the uk until the 1980’s when a campaign got it removed from the jar .I dislike this word it is such a derogatory term and needs putting in a dictionary of words never to be used and thrown in a deep hole so a question should it be changed ? to say golly gosh  .I can partly forgive Waugh as it was used more in his times ,but would he want it used now or would he have edited it and change it ? do we accept a writer using racist words due to their time of writing or take a sharp breath and  change these words ? .I don’t know but what is your view ?

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mel ui
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 21:22:33

    Very good question-not long ago I read one of Flannery O’Connor’s most famous short stories-it has a totally offensive racist expression in the title -for this reason I decided not to post on it-also I did not want people to input this expression into Google and be directed to my blog!


  2. Heather
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 21:56:20

    I think that you have to read it in context. If it is appropriate to when it was written I have no problem with it. But to use those terms now would be wrong. Of course, it is always my choice of what to read in the first place.


  3. The Book Whisperer
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 22:09:21

    Good question Stu. I don’t think they should be changed. It’s a sign of the times, and we can’t move forward without seeing where we have come from. Of course I certainly wouldn’t use language like but I don’t have a problem with it in literature of a bygone era as that’s how it was then. I love victorian literature and there is so much in those book about the role of women that you could get completely up in arms about too but that’s just how it was.


  4. Anbolyn
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 22:16:36

    I think they should be left in. As much as they make us modern readers cringe, they are an original part of the story and the author’s intent was for that word or phrase to be used.


  5. Matt Craig
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 22:43:54

    Waugh, like Twain, whose “cleaned-up” books provoked outrage several months back, is a product of his time and, as a result, is going to use slang and terminology that was prevalent at the time. To change it now for the sake of our overly politcally-correct sensibilities seems a bit over-the-top to me – censorship gone crazy. Who’s to say that in forty of fifty years people will be saying the same of some of our current bestsellers?

    I have fond memories of Golly the gollywog on the Robertson’s marmalade jars, and remember collecting the tokens (can’t remember if I ever collected enough). Maybe here in Northern Ireland we have a different sensibility, but in those days it was never about the colour of your skin, but how close together your eyes were, or which foot you kicked with 😉

    An interesting question, Stu, and a good debate.




    • winstonsdad
      Jul 06, 2011 @ 23:00:02

      This is true will our books seem to sanitized at times ? ,I remember the tokens ,I do feel it should be kept same as twain should be kept is and Conrad ,maybe things we say now will seem this way in fifty years ,all the best stu


  6. Sarah
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 06:54:06

    This question came up when I was reading To Kill a Mocking Bird to my daughters. Was I going to read the ‘n’ word or censor it? I read it and my daughters were duly shocked, but they understood never to repeat it and what it said about the people who used it.


  7. Thomas at My Porch
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 16:46:21

    I don’t think erasing history is ever a good idea and don’t think that any book should ever be changed unless the author herself decides to revise for whatever reason.


  8. parrish
    Jul 08, 2011 @ 05:41:33

    You can’t learn or overcome something if you don’t face it, if we don’t learn from our history, we will just repeat it. Also at what point do you stop the censorship.


  9. Kinna
    Jul 14, 2011 @ 13:39:21

    I’m against changing such words. But it goes without saying that it does cloud my reading of such texts. And if such terms are prevalent in all works by the author, then I might decide not to read the author. It was wrong when they wrote and it would wrong now. I don’t subscribe to the “sign of the times” theory because at the time such sentiments were prevalent, lots of people were harmed by the underlying views.


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July 2011


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