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Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Nowedontsaythatwordanymores

The joys of second hand bookshops and charity shops. A couple of days back I picked up a copy of Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Nowedontsaythatwordanymores” just because the full title would cause shrieks of horror in the modern. Does cause shrieks of horror in fact. So, not having read it I wondered whether it was like Huck Finn – you know, where the use of the nowedontsaythatwordanymore word is actually uplifting even if shocking to the modern ear/eye. Huck knowing that if he even thinks of not reporting, let alone aiding, this escaped slave, this nowedontsaythatwordanymore, he’s going to go straight to Hell an’ no stoppin’. So, he helps him because human being is human being.

Well, no, not really. The use of the nowedontsaythatwordanymore word is really rather incidental to everything. You could change the shape of the island, the rhyme, the figurines, to say – just as an example, jockey – and the rest of it would work just as it currently does. Perhaps that’s what more modern versions of the book do.

Of course, jockey would also be unacceptable these days because “lawn jockeys”, little statues of tinted bretheren in jockey silks that sit in front yards like some antebellum gnome garden are also considered grossly racist these days by some. But, you know, that the Sun rises in the East is considered racist by some these days.

So, anyway, so the book. It’s actually a schoolbook version. Prepared for Dutch students practicing their English language stuff. From J. Noorduijn en Zoon N.V. in 1969. Quite why the annotator, NJ Robat gets to be called Drs. I’m not sure. Does Dutch work like German, that two doctorates gets you called Dr Dr someone? Anyway, it’s in the Schoolbibliotheek series and as such the annotations are for the complicated English words that are used in order to educate the kids.

And here’s the little bit that amuses. Just starting from the beginning the words that have to be explained are “justice”, “to retire from the bench”, “illegible”, “to stand out” (“in’t oog vallen” apparently) and so on.

The one word that doesn’t have to be explained, translated or annotated for Dutch teens of the 1960s? “Nowedontsaythatwordanymore”. Me? I blame Zwarte Piet.

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Boganboy
Boganboy
7 months ago

I did like Black Pete in blackface. Must admit I feel it is extremely racist that blacks can dress up as whites, but not whites as blacks.

Reed
Reed
7 months ago
Reply to  Boganboy

We shall have true racial equally when a black producer invites two non-Nowedontsaythatwordanymores to play Porgy and Bess.

Swannypol
Swannypol
7 months ago

In the later 1970s / 80s when that word became widely recognised as unpleasant in the uk it was briefly indians. Post about 1990 that also became considered derogatory, the object of the poem was changed again to soldier boys. In the US it was generally titled “And then there were none”. From 1940s onwards where the original uk title was never used Various filming were made with alternate us and uk titles, but the most recent ones have stuck to “And then there were none” in all markets and the book generally published in that title with soldier boys… Read more »

Paul, Somerset
Paul, Somerset
7 months ago

Drs is Latin Doctorandus – “To be, er, doctored”. Someone who is studying for their doctorate, an MA or MSc in other words.

A lady is a Doctoranda, or a Dra.

Snarkus
Snarkus
7 months ago

I cant remember the name of the book about two New York dectectives nicknamed Robin and Batman for an incident where they arrested drug dealers by swinging in on ropes from an overlooking roof, but it shows how use of what are now naughty words were commonplace slang used within the official victim group. These two detectives began living in their community. The casual language they record is to the delicate modern ear, racist. How times change as it was the “victim group” using it about themselves. Bit like the Australians at Tobruck taking the Germans epithet about being trapped… Read more »

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
7 months ago

The (traditional) doggerel from which the title (and plot were derived) is 10 little monkeys in the US today. But what about Conrad’s The Nowedontsaythatwordanymore of the “Narcissus”?

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