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Graham Allan <[log in to unmask]>
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Thu, 16 Nov 1995 08:49:00 GMT
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I spent my early childhood in immediate-post-war London where if you
could find anything to buy, it was available in 'navy blue', 'bottle
green' or 'nigger brown'.  The word was certainly in wider use than
'negro' and, I am sure, not used in the knowledge that it might cause
offence.  It was very rare, in those days, to see a black face.  Later,
in the mid-fifties, when Britain became host to large numbers of citizens
from the Commonwealth, the lower orders of British life saw the
increasing size of the negro and asian population as a threat and racial
disharmony ensued.  At this time the use of the word diminished and had
all but died out by the time I reached my teens; a direct result of the
thoughtful majority realizing that it was offensive and dropping it from
their vocabularies.

Perhaps my experience was similar to Twain's 110 years before me.  When
his vocabulary was built 'nigger' was just another word.  By the time he
wrote TS, HF and PW he had formulated ideas and opinions that seem, at
least to me, fairly advanced and civilised for his time and background.

In HF he could hardly have ignored the use of that word and written a
credible narrative.  Huckleberry Finn a satire?  Aimed at whom?  Written
for future generations to dissect and find hidden meanings?

I ingested my first Twain at around the age of five.  My slate was clean
and 'nigger', 'negro' or 'whatever', the impression I gained was that the
dark skinned people were being given a bad time, and that the author did
not approve.