The Censorship Crisis

By Morgan Collins

There are hundreds of popular books that I’m sure we have all read as children. Many of these stories come from Roald Dahl who penned classics like “James and the Giant Peach”, “Matilda,” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Dahl had a unique writing style that introduced not only fascinating characters but also many fabricated words. His coined verbiage became so beloved that in 2016 the Oxford English Dictionary added six of his “Dahlisms” into the glossary. These words include Dahlesque, golden ticket, human bean, Oompa Loompa, scrumdiddlyumptious and the witching hour. This list was amended and recreated into a new dictionary that includes exclusively Roald Dahl’s penned words. When completed this dictionary had 8,000 words that included humplecrimp, lixivate, sogmire, zoonk, snozzberry, snozzcumber, gobblefunk, and trogglehumper. Additionally, his books are a good aid for burgeoning readers because he establishes sound patterns so children can read words they have never previously encountered.  

Earlier this month, it was reported that Puffin Publishers, who own the rights to Dahl’s books, were going to revise phrases of his books that contain negative body standards and gender prejudice. Puffin Publishers released a copy of the rewrites in the beginning of March, which has since created some public turmoil due to the fact that the changes seem unnecessary. In his novel “Witches,” the phrase “fat little brown mouse” was changed to “little brown mouse” and “Chambermaid” was moved to “cleaner.” In his book “Matilda,” the character Mrs.Trunchbull was originally described as a “most formidable female” and is now “a most formidable woman.” These changes are miniscule and were frankly uncalled for. On top of that, the removal of adjectives makes it harder for children to read the story and create an accurate image of the characters in their heads. This means that future generations will perceive Dahl’s characters and messages differently due to the wording of the books. It is believed that these changes were most likely put into effect due to the partnership with Puffin Publishers and Inclusive Minds, an organization that works with publishing companies to create books that appeal to a broader audience. However, it raises the question, will other classic stories be changed more drastically than the Roald Dahl books?