Sunday, August 31, 2014

Budget supermarket chain bans kids' book

So, Aldi has banned the Roald Dahl kids' classic Revolting Rhymes over a word.

The word at issue – and it pains me to assault your ears, dear reader, with such unpleasantness but assault I must – is "slut".

It was withdrawn, apparently, after "comments by a limited number of concerned customers", which appears to mean a single post on the supermarket's Facebook page.

"There is an unacceptable word in it for kids!!! Not OK!" fumed the outraged (and over-punctuated) customer.

Since when did Aldi sell books, anyway? I always thought it was that place you went to buy baked beans and come home instead with a new golf bag and some off-brand breakfast cereal the kids refuse to eat.  But now apparently it's a bookstore, too. And a laughably and stupidly prudish one at that.

Dahl is routinely described as "much-loved" largely because he is ... much loved. And the reason his books like Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, James And The Giant Peach and The Twits are so popular is because he is so totally unsentimental. People – especially adults – behave very badly in Dahl's books and characters routinely come to a sticky end (in Augustus Gloop's case, literally). The stories are gloriously gruesome and violent ... and kids adore them because they don't feel patronised.

Dahl's work also demonstrate his fierce intelligence and his passion for language, which brings us to the word slut, which has been excised lest it provoke uproar among the baked bean shoppers of Aldi.

The couplet in Dahl's re-working of Cinderella reads: "The Prince cried, 'Who's this dirty slut?/ Off with her nut! Off with her nut!"

Fully accepting that words can and do change their meaning over time (cf "gay") it's nevertheless clear Dahl is using the word here in its original sense, "a dirty, slovenly woman", according to the Macquarie Dictionary.

One of the earliest recorded usage of the word is in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a work which presumably also has no chance of making it on to Aldi's shelves.

A few kids books have so far escaped the eagle eye of the supermarket censors. How long they might last before someone complains, however, is anybody's gues



Anonymous said...

Very embarrassing that Aldi, as a German concern, should ban books given Germany's not so distant history.

Malcolm Smith said...

I remember my mother telling me that in her day you never called a female dog a bitch. I learned this only when she dropped the word, "slut" into the conversation as the normal word under the circumstances. The same word is used in Henry Lawson's short story, "That There Dog".

Anonymous said...

Be they won't stock Noddy.