Words strain, Crack and Sometimes break, under the burden, Under the tension, slip slide and perish, Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place, Will not stay still. —T.S. Eliot
At the bottom of the copyright page of the latest editions of Roald Dahl’s books, a new notice now appears. “Words matter … The wonderful words of Roald Dahl can transport you to different worlds and introduce you to the most marvellous characters.”
On the surface, it seems whimsical and innocuous. However, it signals a recent effort carried out by his publisher, Puffin, to rewrite his classic texts to make them less “offensive.” Words like “fat” and “ugly” have been culled, whole phrases rewritten, and, of course, gender-neutral terms have been added in places.
While highly reported on in the media, this rewriting of classic literature is just the most recent manifestation of a central facet of the new dangerous trend to label language as a form of violence, under the guise of the very mantra that introduced the new bastardization of Dahl’s work: Words Matter.