What if there is a really nasty word in a recording?

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jedopi
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Post by jedopi » April 28th, 2010, 12:19 pm

I was just reading over chapter one of a book that I am going to be recording. It is set in the pre civil-war south of the US and the main characters live on a plantation and I am sorry to say that they owned slaves. There is the "N" word in this chapter and probably throughout the rest of this book.

I suppose that I will have to say it to stay true to the author's writings but it does make me feel very uncomfortable. :cry: I honestly hope that no one will be offended by this reading. Has anyone else ever had to narrate something that they felt was wrong?

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Post by KiltedDragon » April 28th, 2010, 12:24 pm

I have had to use the "N" word on several occasions. The first time I came across it, I wanted to change it too. But you have to remember you are just recording what is there, you are not the one using it.
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Post by TriciaG » April 28th, 2010, 12:38 pm

Yep - read stuff I felt was wrong. But it's history, and the policy here is to not change the texts. Therefore, you either have to read it, or if you feel THAT uncomfortable with it, switch the project to a different book altogether. (Or this one could be converted into a group recording and you could read the chapters that aren't objectionable.)
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Post by Steampunk » April 28th, 2010, 12:49 pm

It's best to keep in mind that most LV recordings were written in a less enlightened age (at least we consider ourselves more enlightened than previous generations - history will judge). I see great value in preserving the past as it was and resisting the iconoclastic tendencies we all feel from time to time when we run into less-than-savory reminders of outmoded attitudes.

I understand your discomfort, but as KD said, you're just reading it - they're not your words.

As the wiki sayeth:

http://wiki.librivox.org/index.php/Recording_%26_Text_Policies
LibriVox and "Sensitive" Topics
Every work included in the LibriVox collection is potentially a sensitive and sacred text...depending on the reader or listener. We approach every work with respect, but we will not exclude a work because of it being potentially offensive or disrespectful. The nature of our collection is historical due to it being primarily pre-1923, and we will be running into works that will raise questions, concerns, or conflicts (i.e. religion, slavery, woman's status in society, treatment of indigenous peoples, etc.)

We acknowledge that some of the information and perspectives presented may be offensive, or even just plain incorrect, but we're preserving history as presented by people of a specific time period without making judgements or statements about these perspectives.

You are more than welcome to voice your opinions, in a respectful manner, about the works included in the LibriVox collection in the Off-Topic area of the LibriVox Forums.

May I change the text?
Occasionally people ask if they can change the published text, for instance by omitting or substituting offensive words or ideas.

The answer is: No. We present the text as it is written: no additions, omissions, or substitutions. If the text contains a word you just cannot say, consider choosing something else to record. (There is so much available to record! No need to cause yourself discomfort.) If you wish to make an "editorial comment" about the content of the text, you may do so in the written catalog summary, but you may not add it to the recording.

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Post by annise » April 28th, 2010, 2:40 pm

On a swift count nigger/s is said 50 times in the book- so if it is a problem to you I suggest you should pick a different book - and certainly not one about life on a plantation during slave times.

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Post by Jonathan Awesome » April 28th, 2010, 2:54 pm

I couldn't imagine anyone being upset with you for reading something accurately.

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Post by Nicholas19 » April 28th, 2010, 6:14 pm

jedopi wrote:I suppose that I will have to say it to stay true to the author's writings but it does make me feel very uncomfortable. :cry: I honestly hope that no one will be offended by this reading. Has anyone else ever had to narrate something that they felt was wrong?
In the nineteenth century, the N word was not an insult or bad word. So, in reality, it is only a nasty word when brought into our twentieth or twenty-first century context. According to Wikipedia: "The word originated as a term used in a neutral context to refer to black people, as a variation of the Spanish/Portuguese noun negro, a descendant of the Latin adjective niger, meaning the colour "black"... Nineteenth-century English (language) literature features usages of nigger without racist connotation, e.g. the Joseph Conrad novella The Nigger of the 'Narcissus' (1897). Moreover, Charles Dickens and Mark Twain created characters who uttered the word as contemporary usage. Twain, in the autobiographic book Life on the Mississippi (1883), used the term within quotes, indicating reported usage, but used the term "negro" when speaking in his own narrative persona."

It was used in the UK and the rest of the anglophone world at that time to refer to any dark-skinned peoples, including Asians and Africans. Of course, many people in that era believed whites were superior to blacks, but the word itself was neutral in meaning. Negative connotations would come from the general attitude of individuals towards other races, not from the word itself. By the early 20th century, the word coloured (colored) became the more socially acceptable word. By the 1960s this was replaced with the word black. So I don't see any problem using the N word in its proper context.
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Post by BellonaTimes » April 28th, 2010, 8:00 pm

Jonathan Awesome wrote:I couldn't imagine anyone being upset with you for reading something accurately.
Apparently you don't live in the Deep South, kid. ;)

I don't have a problem with the N word in an adult work but I won't record a story for children with it, unless it's unavoidable, like within a novel. On my to-do list is Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man, which uses the word several times. I've also had to read whole lines of dialogue in Stepin Fechit / Hattie McDaniel style, most recently in Tarkington's Gentle Julia. Hard to say which is more offensive to my black friends -- me saying 'N' or me talking like an embarrassing stereotype.
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Post by Great Plains » April 28th, 2010, 9:20 pm

Nicholas19 wrote:In the nineteenth century, the N word was not an insult or bad word. So, in reality, it is only a nasty word when brought into our twentieth or twenty-first century context. [...]
How interesting.

Kinda makes you wonder which benign modern words will have their meanings shift over time into something nasty. 8-)
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Post by catchpenny » April 28th, 2010, 9:33 pm

It's interesting this should come up. I watched a movie on archive that had several reviews noting racist stereo types in the movie, and giving it bad marks for that. I watched the movie, and all I could discern (and I am probably naive, so take this with a grain of salt) that could be stereo typical was a black man singing a negro spiritual and black kid tap dancing to it. Which in my opinion, is one's heritage, and shouldn't be put in the closet like an unwanted step child.

I remember reading an afterward in Fahrenheit 451 Where Ray Bradbury said some students wrote to him telling him their high school had a copy of his book with all the "damns" and "Hells" edited out. That, is irony at its very best.

If we did edit, we should have to make judgment calls as to what is offensive and what isn't. That is a task I would not care to take on; and also, posterity may just scratch their heads at what we chose to edit out. (Or be shocked at what we left in. Ever listened to Alice in Wonderland? queerer and queerer!)
Oh, and there was a big row last time this topic came up, so if you disagree with anything here, please be civil.
Last edited by catchpenny on April 28th, 2010, 9:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by catchpenny » April 28th, 2010, 9:36 pm

Great Plains wrote: Kinda makes you wonder which benign modern words will have their meanings shift over time into something nasty. 8-)
Yes. Even something as benign as Cylon could become something bad!!!! :P
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Post by Peter Why » April 28th, 2010, 11:21 pm

When I took my O-level English literature exam (at sixteen years old), in about 1964, one of the books we had to read was Gerald Durrell's "My Family and Other Animals". Our version had been bowdlerised! It was hard to believe. I've always wished that I'd kept a copy. All I can remember at this distance is that they'd censored out a bit near the start of the book where Gerry's dog pissed against some trees/lamp posts on arriving in Corfu, and they censored out any reference to the names he gave two puppies, Widdle and Puke.

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Post by Chrisczech » April 29th, 2010, 2:46 am

Richard Pryor used the word extensively in the screenplay for Blazing Saddles. It was very funny.

Sadly, a Congolese man in Belgium is now trying to get an early Tin Tin adventure banned (Tin Tin In The Congo) because he considers it 'racist'.

There are far worse words than 'nigger' that have been read on LibriVox. If it makes you uncomfortable personally, then it would, IMHO, be wrong to record it. Choose something else.

The point about LibriVox is to enjoy putting this works in audio format, isn't it, not to let it be a chore?
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Post by neckertb » April 29th, 2010, 3:34 am

That reminds me of the lair of the white worm, right Barry?
I had several readers dropping out because the language was quite racist.
I feel that it is still important this kind of works be recorded, so as we don't forget how it used to be.
Now I know Europe is a far place for most of you, but you know Tintin, right? His first adventure is in Congo, I think the comic is from 190.. There is a huge polemic in Belgium right now because they want to forbid the book. A century after!
And if you read Tintin carefully, you will see that the author actually evolved a lot along the way. His first cartoon just reflects the general opinion back then, so I say keep it! So we can see what a long way we've come since then.

ETA: I see chrisczech has told the Tintin story already...
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Post by jedopi » April 29th, 2010, 5:29 am

Thank you all for your opinions. :) I do intend to read the book anyway. I just wanted to let any "sensitive" readers out there know that I don't approve of the word, but that's the way it was back then and I can't change that.

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