Monday, 26 July 2010

A PR Stunt or a Sign of the Times?

As a wee girl I was never a fan of Enid Blyton and her Famous Five novels but many of my friends adored them.

Starting next month her publishers, Hodder, intend to publish 'sensitively and carefully' revised editions of the books; doing away with the likes of "mercy me", "fellow", and "it's all very peculiar" and changing them to "oh no!", "old man" and "it's all very strange". The intention, said Hodder, is to make the text 'timeless' rather than 21st century, with no modern slang - or references to mobile phones - introduced.

Hodder insist the actual stories remain the same. I say they do not. Once one word of a book has been changed it's not the same. What they perhaps mean is that the plot or story line remains the same.

Anne McNeil, publishing director of Hodder Children's Books. "Children who read [the Famous Five books] need to be able to easily understand the characterisations and easily to get into the plots. If the text is revised [they're] more likely to be able to engage with them."

Other changes include "housemistress" becoming "teacher", "awful swotter" becoming "bookworm", "mother and father" becoming "mum and dad", "school tunic" becoming "uniform" and Dick's comment that "she must be jolly lonely all by herself" being changed to "she must get lonely all by herself".

If any publisher starts on my favourite authors I will create mayhem. What is wrong with today's children being unable to understand basic English?

Is this a PR stunt to gains more sales or is it something more sinister. I think it's the latter.


Furor Teutonicus said...

Remind me. What was Winston Smiths job again?

Toque said...

Are they chaning 'ginger beer' to WKD?

JuliaM said...

It's nonsense on stilts.

And it emanates from the same people who want to censor 'Huckleberry Finn' and remove Winston Churchill's cigar in portraits. For the same ends, too.

William said...

Language is constantly evolving. Certain words will fall out of common use and it makes sense to replace them with their modern equivalent, especially when aiming at a younger audience.

William said...

Nineteen Eighty-Four is about the obfuscation of language so that words have a contradictory meaning. No-one could argue that calling a 'school tunic' a 'uniform' is blurring the lines or impeding understanding of the meaning.

Furor Teutonicus said...

You do that, and you are destroying the CULTURE of a language.

Anonymous said...

I love Enid Blyton's Famous Five, and actually half the fun is reading the archaїc language.

I mean, it’s archaїc because any language moves on. People don’t speak with the same accents or use the same words. Bertie Worcester’s language is long since dead as is Julian’s and Dick’s. You only have to listen to a speech by Super Mac, and then to Dave Cameron to hear that. And they have much the same kind of background.

No one ever says “jolly well” now, or I suspect gets terribly excited about lashings of ginger beer.... (and the diet these kids ate surely has left them all by now at about 25 st and with cholesterol at heart attack level).

Of course the fact that Anne should necessarily always do the washing up, the shopping and be scared of everything from dark passages to mice is surely a slur on girls... The boys would be expected to take turns at washing up and getting the beds sorted nowadays.

But that’s how it was (and maybe really still is this post feminist age).

The TV shows they made of the FF moved the show into the 70’s I think, and the kids wore flared jeans and talked like 70’s teenagers probably talked... And I’ve read some of the books in French and they don’t suffer from a translation that certainly doesn’t include “jolly well”!!

There is, of course, an argument that Burns is only Burns if not one word or comma has been changed. Perhaps that’s true for adult readers, but the children (and it is children as opposed to teens that read the FF) may find it hard to empathise in any way with children wearing their shirts and ties and school blazers to go for a walk on the moors and talking upper middle class 1930s English. And Blyton, prolific though she was, is hardly Burns or Scott!

It’s important to get kids reading as opposed to playing computer games, and if they feel that the best way is to make Julian and Dick and the girls talk in a way that makes them like real characters, then I have no problem with it.

I’d rather that than a kid read two pages, fell about laughing and dropped the book in favour of the Wii.

It may be that the time for reading out of date, but still beautiful English is when they are a little older. Personally I’d rather that Sophia Pangloss did a revision of the books. That would be a good read.

Dave H said...

I agree with William. We need the classics in a form kids can relate to. For example:
'2 BE R NT 2 BE THT IS TH QSTN, innit.'

Would be far more accessible.

While we're at it, the names are all wrong too: how can youngsters take a book seriously with leading characters called Dick and Fanny? It's so outdated, white and middle class. They ought to be changed to contemporary British names, such as Dwayne and Safiya.

Furor Teutonicus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Furor Teutonicus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Furor Teutonicus said...

Try again.

Tris. The problem is, the origionals become unavailable for them to read in "later life".

Try and get an origional Enid Blyton now, without scouring the Antiquarian book shops and book stalls on "flea markets".

The same with films.

"Flight of the Pheonix", in the origional, and not the version where they are all bastard "American", and you need to go to a specialist on old films.

To ever see them again in the cinema is IMPOSSIBLE.

By doing this, to both books and films, they are destroying literary and cinematic history, and, therefore, an important part of the culture.

Hopefully THAT has worked. I HATE bloody "Google"!!!

INCOMING!!!!!!! said...

SR they've been at this quietly for a long, long time. Indeed swaatching books from the shelves is a full time occupation for some. Seriously they get paid to patrol the bookshelves in libraries, charity shops, car boot sales etc. We are being though homogenised as part of this ongoing process. Thankfully there are some who keep the originals out of the hands of revisionistas.

subrosa said...

So it's a sign of the times Furor? Doesn't surprise me. Rewriting history has gone on forever.

subrosa said...

Perhaps Toque, perhaps. :)

subrosa said...

That's them Julia. The social engineers.

subrosa said...

In that case William, Shakespeare ought to be rewritten- oh and Walter Scott's works and oh Chaucer's works...

subrosa said...

Indeed it would be Sophia got her hands on them Tris. Then, I'm not quite sure the publisher would do and this, for me, is just another example of dumbing down children's education.

subrosa said...

Well said Dave. I'm with you on that!

subrosa said...

It's not often we agree Furor but we do on this. Funnily enough a friend of mine is a vintage film buff and he was complaining recently that all the politically-correct remakes have destroyed the availability of the old films.

subrosa said...

Jings Incoming I didn't know we'd gone that far down the line.

I'll have to have a word with some pals about their Oor Willie annuals and tell them to keep them or they'll be lost altogether.

When you give old books to charity you do it in the expectation that someone else will enjoy them, not for the Righteous to decided if they will or not.

Furor Teutonicus said...

subrosa said...

So it's a sign of the times Furor?

To destroy North Western culture, arts, and traditions?


They have already tried to make these books "P.C".

WHEN will they realise, that, even if they DO wish to replace WHITE, Germanic culture with crap, because it was "supressive", that doing this kind of thing actualy removes the evidence for the opposition?

They look back from the future and see "HEJ! They go on about repression and racism*. WE can not find any!"

* Example. Origional version of "Five go to smugglers top" Enid Blyton;

George; "We call him sooty because he is black".

Proffessor; "That is not nice. It is not his fault he is black!"

Now, in the "P.C" version, removed.

SO removing one of the items of evidence that supported their "cause".

William said...

Shakespeare has been rewritten, though. And, unless you want to learn Hebrew, the Bible has been rewritten.

I think there's a certain level of intellectual snobbery going on here. There is no adaptation of slang, text talk or substitution of difficult words.

I think you're confusing simplicity with simplism.

Joe Public said...

"If any publisher starts on my favourite authors I will create mayhem."

Now that will be worth waiting for!

banned said...

So when will a publisher do something about the fact that all of Enid Blytons subjects are 'hideously white' and middle class?

subrosa said...

I see what you mean Furor, but isn't that the aim of these people - to remove the evidence?

subrosa said...

I don't agree William. If that was so then why bother at all.

subrosa said...

Oh you haven't seen me really angry Joe. It's not a pleasant sight.

subrosa said...

That may be the next step banned.

Apogee said...

I wonder how this would be received if it was suggested that some world famous paintings were being slated for " refreshing" or repainting to bring them up to modern style?

Furor Teutonicus said...

subrosa said...

I see what you mean Furor, but isn't that the aim of these people - to remove the evidence?

And when, in the future, someone sais "Give me an example why this law was brought in"....and there is NON.Because they have destroyed the reason for the law to be there in the first place.

Not that I am on their side, I am racist and proud of it. But they ARE their own worse enemies.

subrosa said...

Many a true word Apogee, many a true word...

subrosa said...

I think the law is full of legislation which qualifies in that way Furor. Such a shame there's not one politician who is prepared to go through it all with a fine toothcomb and negate the useless.

Furor Teutonicus said...

As far as I remember, a law can not be "repealed", it can only be superceeded by a later one.

K said...

This question is really about whether you want to preserve Enid Blyton’s books as a literary memento of your own childhood or whether you want children in the present day to read them and enjoy them.

I’d like to see children reading Enid Blyton. After all, a lot of contemporary children’s fiction owes Enid Blyton a huge debt – not least the Harry Potter series.

You must recognise however that some of the language is so outdated as to be comical. The publishers have to make a judgement about the point at which the language becomes a barrier to children's enjoyment of the book. It is not really the same as changing Shakespeare or Chaucer. I have yet to encounter a 9 year old reading Chaucer for pleasure (or any other purpose).

Given the choleric responses here I wonder how you and your readers will have reacted to “Sherlock” – or did none of you watch it?

Personally I think that the modern rendition of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson was terrific, and a testament to the strength of Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters. But they certainly took huge liberties with the original characters and storyline.

The question is whether the characters and the storylines can transcend their original setting. In the case of Sherlock Holmes that is undoubted and, personally, I think the same is true of Enid Blyton's characters. The key to them is not that they are white or middle class or use words like "jolly". It is the way in which her characters can reach beyond the limitations set on them by adults and form their own moral judgements that engages children and fires their imagination.

subrosa said...

Furor, to be honest I wouldn't know the legalities of it but somehow your opinion seems to ring a bell in the dark recesses of my mind.

subrosa said...

I disagree with you on the point of Enid Blyton's books K as I cannot see why any child would be deterred from reading them because they don't understand "it's all very peculiar" or "fellow". Part of the interest for children would be to read what their grandparents read. To modernise them is inappropriate and if children don't understand certain words or sayings then these days they can easily Google them and find the answer. Isn't that part of the fun of reading for any age?

As for Sherlock, yes I did see it and it was excellent but it is another media altogether and I didn't mind the artistic licence taken. Now, if because of this new programme it was decided that Conan Doyle's books should be rewritten or adjusted to suit the programme, or any of the other versions of his stories which have been around for some years, then I would strongly object.

As I said, Enid Blyton's books will continue to be read by children. They love to know about the 'dark ages' of their parents and grandparents.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Have I spotted an elephant in the room?

I think the main ppoint here, should not be "modernising Enid Blyton, Yes or no", but "why the HEL are there no modern equivalents?"

Is there NO "children's authors" out there any more? (Harry Potter being possibly an exception, but even then, the later books were, I feel, a bit more to the adult, and "darker" side of literature than Blyton ever was.

Also, do not forget Blytons OTHER great success (for me any way), "The secret Seven". Whatever happened to THEM?

Not to mention those "series" that never turned out to be, such as "Mystery of the Secret (hidden?) Valley", where instead of the dog, the characters had a parrot.

There was also the series with the fat kid who fancied himself as Frank Cannon Fredrick Algenon Thomphson, or something, was his name.

K said...

But the thing is Subrosa that children are not reading Enid Blyton. They are reading JK Rowling and Julia Donaldson and Philippa Pearce - these are the modern equivalents of Enid Blyton. And I am sure all of these ladies would be the first to acknowledge their debt to Enid Blyton.

I really think the reactions to this are completely overblown. Hodder is doing a re-launch of her works aimed squarely at the children’s market. But they will continue to publish the classic editions, with unchanged text and featuring Eileen Soper’s original Famous Five illustrations, along with the revised editions.

So it’s not a question of replacing the older version with the modern version - and children who fall for the characters can always go back and read the originals perhaps when they are a little older.

Derek Bennett EU-Sceptic said...

In this day and age shouldn't Mother and father be changed to: 'Mum, whose my dad?!

subrosa said...

Hello Derek, good to hear from you. Yes indeed and perhaps it ought to acknowledge ' Mum and Mum' or 'Dad and Dad'.

It's astonishing how society has been indoctrinated isn't it. Once I became a teenager it was always mother and father in my house, although I always referred to my mother as mother, my father has always been my Dad. If any child doesn't understand that today, the fault lies with their parents and the education system which is paid for by us.

Anonymous said...

Not for all of us Derek. Some of us know who our fathers are, or were, in my case.

subrosa said...

I've no idea what happened to the other Enid Blyton novels Furor because I was never a fan of hers but a few of my pals were. Strangely my favourite reading as a child were the children's encyclopedias. Much good they did me but I still have them in the attic. My grandmother bought them back in the 30s for my mother.

subrosa said...

But it's always been that way K, children read what's fashionable and more dated authors, who excelled, became classics.

May be the reactions are overblown but there's a much wider message here don't you think. That's perhaps why the reactions may seem a little OTT.

I'm a little confused here. You suggest older children will go back and read the original versions yet younger children are unable to understand words like fellow? It's kind of insulting to young children. I've always found them like sponges and able to absorb meanings extremely quickly. In fact, if the books were presented to them correctly, they'd think it rather quaint I'm sure.

It's maybe a clever PR exercise from Hodder to publicise Enid Blyton's works but it also gives us food for thought.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Subrosa said;
Strangely my favourite reading as a child were the children's encyclopedias.

At nine/10 I had half read Churchills history of the English speaking peoples, and more than half of Goethe and all of Nietzsche.

But I devoured Blytons books as well.

AS to what "Mother and Father should be called", With us it was simple;

Herr Vater, and Frau Mutter. (The sme for the Grandparents (With suitable titles, of course), and NO one was allowed to "Duzen" them under the age of 30.

K said...

I do feel people are getting the wrong end of the stick here.

The purpose of Hodder relaunching the Famous Five series of books is to get children reading them again - to make them fashionable, as you say.

It's about getting CHILDREN reading Enid Blyton again, as opposed to adults turning her books into shrines to our own childhoods.

Although Hodder sells over 500,000 copies of the Famous Five series each year (21 books in all) most children have never heard of them. As Furor Teutonicus has pointed out, it's pretty difficult to get Enid Blyton books in the children's section in many bookshops these days and most children have not come across her work. I find that very sad.

The reason for this is not because there is a plot to eradicate white Germanic culture (!!!) It is because of the laws of supply and demand. (Although I would point out to anyone who wants to obtain copies that you can get the whole range of Enid Blyton's books on Amazon).

Quite simply, Enid Blyton is not cool. Her characters and the language they use have become the subject of parody. We probably all saw the Comic Strip version of Five Go Mad in Dorset. It was very funny, I thought so anyway, but as a consequence of these kimds of parodies Enid Blyton has become a no-go with most parents because her books are seen as a little bit absurd as well as old-fashioned.

As I said, I find that sad because I think Enid Blyton actually is pretty cool. There is so much more to her than 1940s slang and lashings and lashings of ginger beer. I don't want to see her books labelled a "classic" and put away on a dusty shelf where most children will never read them.

From my point of view therefore the re-launch is an excellent move. I do not believe that changing "house mistress" to "teacher" or "school tunic" to "school uniform" and so on undermines the integrity of the work in any way. Rather, it removes a barrier to children's enjoyment of the books.

Enid Blyton would not care. She was a passionate advicate of children's literacy. She intentionally used slang phrases in her books and received some criticism for it. But she wanted to make her books as accessible as possible. She still would.

subrosa said...

Are you saying the addresses of Vati and Mutti are no longer Furor? I was just talking with a wee German lad the other day and he addressed his parents in that way.

subrosa said...

Oh Furor, when I say I read the encylopedias I don't profess to having understood much at all, but I would re-read the subjects which interested me with the help of a dictionary and a very well read grandmother. These were the only children's books she had in her house, although she bought us our usual annuals for Christmas.

My mother had never shown interest in the encylopedias so I think Granny was grateful to see them used.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Nur die Unterschicht.

By any family with CLASS and DICIPLINE, it is, for example when ordered to dinner "Jawohl Herr Großvater!" (or Frau Großmutter, Frau Mutter, Frau Tante, Herr Vater, etc), and NEIN, or any delay that was not a dire medical emergency would NEVER be excepted.

You were also expected to stand smartly to attention unless told otherwise whilst being addressed by any of them.

Plus, as I already said ALL were "Sie" until you were 30 years old, and even THEN, you had to be invited to "duzen".

To be caught addresing a teachjer, family friend, School mates parents as anything but "Sie", AND addressing them as Frau/Herr "XYZ", meant a GOOD six of the best as well.

Not enough of it nowadays, if you ask me.

subrosa said...

The Blyton books may not be 'cool' K but that doesn't mean to say today's children wouldn't enjoy them.

This all comes down to both parents choice and the education system. When I was little we were told what books to read. Come to think about it, even when I was older school issued a list of required reading. A few of the Famous Five books were necessary reading for us in primary if I remember.

Do you honestly think changing a few words will make her books less cool? Sadly I think not. As I said before, I think children will read anything for which an adult shows enthusiasm.

Yesterday I asked at my local library if they issued much Blyton, only to be told that children preferred the more modern writers. So, if our librarians aren't recommending the likes of Blyton, what hope for the books of 'old'?

Furor Teutonicus said...

Never be ACCEPTED, that should be.

Derek Bennett EU-Sceptic said...

As a child of the Birmingham slums, born at the tail end of 1948, it was always mom and dad for me, still is although since losing my dear old dad in 1999 it's now mom only.

However, it was mom and dad for me when I was avidly reading Enid Blyton's books which used mother and father - and thoroughly enjoying them. Thanks for the welcome Subrosa - hope you are ok.

subrosa said...

30 years old Furor? Never used to be any age limit in my day. It was by invitation only at any age. Also of course, older single women were 'awarded' the title of Frau once they reached around 50.

I never ever heard a child call a parent Herr Vater or Frau Mutti in all my years there, although very occasionally I heard Frau Tante.

We used to have the courtesy here of calling everyone by their appropriate title, but of course that's all gone now. We're even called by our Christian names by total strangers when in hospitals. I was told that the 'familiar' makes a person more comfortable. Rubbish.

subrosa said...

Same in my home Derek. I'm fine thanks and do hope you're keeping well yourself. Ageing isn't always kind or easy is it, at least I don't think so.

K said...

"Yesterday I asked at my local library if they issued much Blyton, only to be told that children preferred the more modern writers."

That is the whole point Subrosa! Check in at your local library after the new Famous Five books are launched on August 5. I bet they will be stocked, as I know they are going to be stocked and heavily promoted in bookshops.

Yes, it is a PR exercise by Hodder to get Enid Blyton back into the picture but if, as a consequence of that, a new generation of children are introduced to her works that's fine by me.

subrosa said...

It's fine by me too K but my local librarian wasn't too interested in any promotion of the books as the 'originals' have always been stocked in the library.

What I'm saying is that the choice of reading from young children comes from the media, peers and school. Back in my day the media had nothing to do with it and it was your peers, family and teachers who gave you your interest in books.

I do hope this effort by Hodder increases sales to the amount they desire, but I have my doubts. If the grown ups aren't going to pass on their favourite books then what hope for the children?

Sadly, I suspect it will be very short lived and children will be given modern politically correct authors. Such a shame really.

Furor Teutonicus said...

subrosa said...

30 years old Furor? Never used to be any age limit in my day. It was by invitation only at any age.

That was/is not automatic. It was and IS still by invitation.

Also of course, older single women were 'awarded' the title of Frau once they reached around 50.

Unless I see a ring, it is Fräulein. If they don't like it thenb they are free to explain why.

I never ever heard a child call a parent Herr Vater or Frau Mutti in all my years there,....

As I said, it depends on if your circle of friends have class. I have even heard the Unterschicht allowing their bastards to call them by their first names!!

We used to have the courtesy here of calling everyone by their appropriate title, but of course that's all gone now.

It has CERTAINLY not "gone" in MY family, NOR in our circle of friends it is not.

SOME of us HAVE standards, and KEEP to them.

Have you ever heard of Freiherr von Knigge?

I would reccomend it as essential reading.

subrosa said...

Ah I see you're not prepared to show courtesy to the older German woman Furor. Such a shame because I think it's rather a kind title.

My German friends are mainly business people or professionals. Half of them are retired now but there's still the engineer who visits his 7 factories each month and the specialist leather maker who insists he supervises the makings of his products which go to Rome, Milan etc. I'm still the proud owner of one of his handbags, given to me around 40 years ago. Are these people class? I wouldn't know but I do know their children, when small, called them vati and mutti.

I wasn't actually stating it had all gone within families. My example was hospitals if you noticed.

Furor Teutonicus said...

subrosa said...

Ah I see you're not prepared to show courtesy to the older German woman Furor.

On the contrary. As I say, IF they wish not to be addresseds as Fräulein, then they are free to explain that. But I have seen on many occassions, particularly at annual balls at the likes of Schloß Graf von Gneisenau Sommerschenburg, Schloß Sigmaringen, Burg Hohenzollern etc, where it can be considered an insult to call someone Frau when she is an 80 year old Fräulein.

subrosa said...

Ah well, Furor, you're obviously younger than me and mix in different circles. I've never heard any woman say she's insulted by being called Frau instead of Fraulein.

That doesn't mean to say I haven't been to some rather lovely summer and winter balls.

Furor Teutonicus said...


My Auntie (Fräulein) is 98, her Sister is 83, I REFUSE to have "friends", under 50, as most are undisciplined, self serving idiots. Not all. My Wife is not. But in general....

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