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.