Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rapscallion (get ready for a rant by me)

Merriam Webster says that,

The word "rascal" has been part of English since the 15th century, but on its own it apparently didn’t quite capture the disagreeable nature of the wily knaves of yore. By the 17th century, English speakers had modified "rascal" to create "rascallion." But it seems that even that term didn’t sound quite mischievous enough. By the century’s end, "rascallion" had been further altered to create "rapscallion." Today, "rapscallion" is still commonly used as a synonym for "blackguard," "scoundrel," and "miscreant." "Rascallion" is still around as well, but it’s very rare.

Mark Twain says,

Them rapscallions took in four hundred and sixtyfive dollars in that three nights. I never see money hauled in by the wagon-load like that before. By and by, when they was asleep and snoring, Jim says:

"Don't it s'prise you de way dem kings carries on, Huck?"

"No," I says, "it don't."

"Why don't it, Huck?"

"Well, it don't, because it's in the breed. I reckon they're all alike,"

"But, Huck, dese kings o' ourn is reglar rapscallions; dat's jist what dey is; dey's reglar rapscallions."

"Well, that's what I'm a-saying; all kings is mostly rapscallions, as fur as I can make out."

"Is dat so?"

"You read about them once -- you'll see. Look at Henry the Eight; this 'n 's a Sunday-school Superintendent to HIM. And look at Charles Second, and Louis Fourteen, and Louis Fifteen, and James Second, and Edward Second, and Richard Third, and forty more; besides all them Saxon heptarchies that used to rip around so in old times and raise Cain. My, you ought to seen old Henry the Eight when he was in bloom. He WAS a blossom. He used to marry a new wife every day, and chop off her head next morning. And he would do it just as indifferent as if he was ordering up eggs. 'Fetch up Nell Gwynn,' he says. They fetch her up. Next morning, 'Chop off her head!' And they chop it off. 'Fetch up Jane Shore,' he says; and up she comes, Next morning, 'Chop off her head' -- and they chop it off. 'Ring up Fair Rosamun.' Fair Rosamun answers the bell. Next morning, 'Chop off her head.' And he made every one of them tell him a tale every night; and he kept that up till he had hogged a thousand and one tales that way, and then he put them all in a book, and called it Domesday Book -- which was a good name and stated the case. You don't know kings, Jim, but I know them;  
-excerpted from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Did you hear about this?  Our national obsession with political correctness has got to stop!

I figure the guy (Mark Twain scholar, Alan Gribben) who recommended changing the "N" word and the word "injun" in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to less offensive wording might be called rapscallion by Mr. Twain himself.  

Gribben says he was merely trying to prevent the censor of the book by schools so that more school children will be able read it.  Doesn't the erasure of Twain's use of  racial slurs dampen, even weaken the lesson of the book? Twain used those words specifically to show how wrong the treatment of those who are different from us is.

What has happened to logic and discernment and good sense? We live in a crazy world, if we aren't free to hear the truth, if we think there is anything wrong with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn just the way Twain wrote it.  Children should read the book. They should be taught the meaning of the book. In doing so, they will learn something about America's history and the way we should think about our fellow man. Hopefully they will  gain a clearer understanding of all of mankind. 

If there is a real problem with people calling for censorship of the book, then in my opinion it lies with people who make judgment calls about books they have obviously never read.

'Classic.' A book which people praise and don't read.
-Mark Twain


  1. Too many Chiefs and too few Indians if you ask me. Everyone wants their way of looking at things taken as the bible. UGH... I hate it.

  2. political correctness has gone one way too far - totally agree, but then again i really dislike censorship

  3. I'm not a fan of *political correctness*. What's next? Are they going to edit *To Kill a Mockingbird*, too?

  4. Things which are historical should stay as the original works, except maybe where books written in old-style English are difficult to read (e.g. King James Bible). I think it doesn't hurt to translate it into modern English, so long as the original meaning of words and terms are carefully translated to retain their meanings. These Mark Twain books have a novelty all their own and I agree that they shouldn't be changed.

  5. So true, sometimes the political correctness goes overboard, I have many such examples as well. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was my favorite book when I was a child and I never ever viewed anything in it with dismay. Indeed, original work should be left untouched, I wonder how far we will go to censor things...

  6. Just dont go to school in Texas and likely you'll read Twain and other books that arent up to the way the Texas school (and government)thinks things should be taught .. and maybe civility will return and people with differing political opinions wont be shot for them.

  7. Daryl, Alan Gribben, the guy behind the editing is a professor at Auburn University...right here in Alabama.

    As to shootings, let's oppose ideas and ideals, not people.

  8. Hmmm, VERY WELL WRITTEN and to this post I say AMEN SISTER!!!!!!!

  9. Mark Twain would be very proud of you Stevie!

  10. I was just called names yesterday for simply having a different opinion than the other person in the conversation. Thank goodness for Mark Twain for writing about the times and not worrying about political correctness, which has run amok.

  11. I think this whole concept is absurd. I grew up in a racist, bigoted family and hearing that word all of my childhood. The adults even called the area of town where black people mostly lived "n-town". But did that make me a racist? No, it did not. I am quite the opposite. Instead of rewriting an author's words, or banning books, these people should be encouraging children to read them, as written, and then having a relevant discussion with them, explaining why it is wrong to say those words. Most sensible people do just that.

    Excellent post, Stevie!

  12. I COMPLETELY agree Stevie! Don't mess with my literature! ha ha

  13. I agree with your take on the matter. Let's use this as a teaching tool and not censor it into oblivion. I would say no to censorship in general, but the way people are expressing themselves these days needs self-censorship! Maybe that should be a bumper sticker: PRACTICE SELF-CENSORSHIP


I'm glad you stopped by and I look forward to your comments. As Dr. Fraser Crane would say, "Hello, I'm listening."