Editing literature and the N-word Questions

As usual, The Daily Show addresses the Mark Twain controversy well.


You’ve probably heard about someone wanting to take the works of Mark Twain and republish them, replacing the word N@$$%! with the word “slave”. I think this is pretty lame as I have previously indicated.

Yet, while I’m not crazy about the word, I’m less bothered by it when it’s 1) used in historic context or 2) to make a particular point. Film critic Roger Ebert got into some hot water using the word recently. He didn’t bother me, but some of the comments I’ve seen in response to his use – “well, he has a N@##%! wife” – seems to justify my general antipathy for the word.

Should Huck Finn and other works of Mark Twain be edited to remove a word current sensibilities might find offensive? If so, how should such a book be labeled?

When, if ever, are racially charged words acceptable? There’s a John Lennon song that I believe is making a larger point of social commentary.

As usual, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart addresses this well. NSFW, if the use of N@##$! might get you fired.