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On Being PC

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wendy
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On Being PC

Post by wendy » Thu February 17th, 2011, 1:12 pm

In the wake of all the controversy over the "n" word in Twain - how are the writers among us dealing with non-pc words that historical characters would definitely have used, but which the modern reader might find offensive?

I try to recreate the syntax and tone of the period I am writing in - but replacing certain words with milder versions just doesn't sound authentic.

Any suggestions?
Wendy K. Perriman
Fire on Dark Water (Penguin, 2011)
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stu1883
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Post by stu1883 » Thu February 17th, 2011, 2:37 pm

My own personal view is that if it is the words that were used at the time AND it is clearly approriate for the character to use it, then what is the harm? Sometimes, political correctness forgets commonsense and I find it so ridiculous that a coloured person will use the "n" word to describe himself or someone else in everyday speech, yet the moment a white person uses it in the context you describe Wendy, they are accused of rascism!

The double standards set by the PC brigade infuriate me. I don't ever condone racism - or any other ism for that matter - but if it is approriate in your work then I would use it.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu February 17th, 2011, 2:46 pm

I think that most of the PC noise-makers are self-serving. I also think that the public, especially the HF-reading public, is much broader-minded than that.

And finally, I think that a little controversy gets your name out there, which sells books.

So go for it.

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Thu February 17th, 2011, 4:00 pm

I haven't run into this yet, but I would use the potentially offensive words. I might address the issue in an author's note, or perhaps I'd save it for the publicity that is sure to follow the controversy.

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Michy
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Post by Michy » Thu February 17th, 2011, 5:56 pm

One of the reasons why we are able to tolerate offensive language in literature (and not just language, but often the overall treatment of a particular race or group of people) is because we take into consideration not only the time period that the writer is writing about, but also the time period in which the writers themselves lived and wrote. I think most reasonable people accept and understand that if they read a book written pre-Civil Rights, they are going to come across some things that might make them cringe. But I don't know to what extent such tolerance would extend to a writer living and writing in our current environment.

I'm not recommending that you do or do not use language currently considered un-PC; I think that is a choice that only you as the writer can make, after weighing all the pros and cons. However, I will say that, should you choose to use such language, just brace yourself for the backlash.

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SarahWoodbury
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Post by SarahWoodbury » Thu February 17th, 2011, 8:10 pm

If you were writing HF set in the pre-Civil War south (or even, pre 1965 South), then at least some of your characters, to be genuine (if they were white southerners), would use language I'd find offensive. But to not use that language would be more inappropriate.

The same would be true, say, for colonial Africa or India. Or say, South Africa up until 1990. I thought the movie, Invictus, handled that issue really well.

It's different if you're talking Tudor England, or a period far enough in the past that what they would have said no longer falls into the PC or no-PC category--when the worst swear word was "God's blood!" Yes, your knight should say that, but it would be the opposite of offensive to us (ironically).

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Thu February 17th, 2011, 11:59 pm

Most of my stories take place in the Victorian Era and I dont sugar coat anything. Let it hang out there, that's what I say. Its history. Don't try to make it PC. But then again I hate PC crap anyway.
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wendy
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Post by wendy » Fri February 18th, 2011, 5:45 pm

Thanks for your thoughts.
Wendy K. Perriman
Fire on Dark Water (Penguin, 2011)
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