What Is A Word Worth? The Public Square’s Cafe Society Debates The Issue

[When is a word forbidden?  What does excising a word from normal discourse do?  These questions might be brought up in the context of this weeks discussion centering on the purging of “nigger” from the text of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.  Here is what  writer Dave Marsh underscores about whitewashing the word away:

“I would rather hear the word “nigger” in a conversation, used properly for history or quotation, or in a sentence of any kind than the puerile “the N-Word.”

Who is the euphemism sheltering? Either it assumes that there are those auditing the conversation or reading the sentence who do not know what that epithet means and should not find out or it means “we all know,” and in effect, that’s nudge, nudge, the okey-doke.

If you counted all the times that people use “the N word” to replaced “nigger,” you would find that it is used damned near as often as it was in 1884.”

Makes you think about how much like a secret handshake saying the phrase “n-word” is.  If you can’t make it to the Cafe Society, you can use the DIY toolkit to foment your own!  —  Lew Rosenbaum]

Cafe Society Next Week’s Topic: What is a word worth?

Café Society will be meeting at Valois (1518 E 53rd St, Chicago) from 7-8pm and at Panera Bread (1126 E Walnut St, Carbondale) from 7:30-8:30pm on Thursday, February 3,or have your own discussions using our Cafe Society DIY Toolkit.

From “New edition of ‘Huckleberry Finn to lose the ‘n’ word by Keith Staskiewicz

“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.'”

Questions for consideration

  • What is problematic about replacing the “n-word” with “slave” and “Injun” with “Indian” in the Adventures of Huckberry Finn?
  • Are there possible benefits?
  • How might this change take away from the nature and intention of the book?
  • Is this an attempt to sanitize American culture?
  • If so, what are potential intended and unintended consequences?

Want to find out more?

A case for censoring Huck Finn
Censorship of ‘Huck Finn’ tasteless but not mandatory
To tweak or not to tweak a literary classic: Pro-censor
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn… through censorship!
Letter: Censoring Huck Finn

Café Society SCHEDULE

1st Thursdays
7-8 p.m., Valois, 1518 E 53rd St, Chicago
7:30-8:30 p.m., Panera Bread, 1126 E Walnut St, Carbondale

2nd Fridays
5-6 p.m., Ron’s Barber Shop, 6058 W North Ave, Chicago

3rd Wednesdays
1:00-2:00 p.m., Chicago Cultural Center’s Randolph Street Café, 77 E Randolph St, Chicago

4th Week
Roving Cafe Society, Location, date, and time to be announced.


One Response to “What Is A Word Worth? The Public Square’s Cafe Society Debates The Issue”

  1. Lew Rosenbaum Says:

    Cafe Society at Valois has been canceled this week as a result of the blizzard. The Carbondale location will go on as anticipated

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