I wish this was some kind of a joke. The publishers of the next edition of Mark Twain’s classic Huckleberry Finn plan to replace the “n” word with “slave.”
What is a word worth? According to Publishers Weekly, NewSouth Books’ upcoming edition of Mark Twain’s seminal novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will remove all instances of the “n” word—I’ll give you a hint, it’s not nonesuch—present in the text and replace it with slave. The new book will also remove usage of the word Injun. The effort is spearheaded by Twain expert Alan Gribben, who says his PC-ified version is not an attempt to neuter the classic but rather to update it. “Race matters in these books,” Gribben told PW. “It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”
Jonathan Turley shows how this “edit” could complicate the book:
Replacing this word with “slave” can change the meaning and certainly the intent of Twain. Consider the following line:
“Oh, yes, this is a wonderful govment, wonderful. Why, looky here. There was a free
niggerslave there from Ohio – a mulatter, most as white as a white man. He had the whitest shirt on you ever see…
The difference may be subtle but Twain clearly could have used slave. The word existed at the time. Twain chose the n-word to convey something beyond captive status. It was a word used widely. It is still used in literary works to say something about the people who use it.
In my book, changing loaded, powerful words in a literary classic to better “express it in the 21st century” is no better than George Lucas “updating” the original Star Wars films to some bastardized, unrecognizable iteration of itself. You ruin the original intent of the book and force new readers to run from the reality in which the book was written and the historical context that followed.