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Words are fascinating ... Put them together in the right way, and we can communicate with people in other places and other times. Make a mess of it and ...

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Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Friday, October 30, 2009

Poor Humpty Dumpty!

I suppose it was reminiscing about children's stories last week ( ) that has kept my little grey cells attuned to the subject, so it was only to be expected that I pricked up my shell-pink ears last week when I heard an item on the news about Humpty Dumpty. (And really, how often does Humpty Dumpty make the headlines?)

Now, if you haven't kept up with the latest happenings in the life of this adventurer eggstraordinaire, may I be the first to break the happy news to you?

It seems, dear reader, that the old dare-devil of our acquaintance has taken on the characteristics of a super-hero and can no longer be harmed. Some boffins at the BBC, in their politically-correct wisdom, have decreed that it's upsetting for the kiddies to sing about Humpty having a great fall, and even more distressing to discover that "all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again."

So ... the new version of the rhyme concludes that "...all the king's horses and all the king's men now make Humpty happy again."

Now is it only me, or do you also find that wrong on so many levels?

Let us count the ways ...

1. The rhyme has been around since 1810; are we to conclude from this that we can now change the endings of any story we don't like? (Well, I think Heathcliff and Catherine should have lived happily ever after together, so let's rewrite Wuthering Heights to have a happy ending.)

2. We (and countless millions of other children) were brought up singing happily about a large ambulatory egg that fell off a wall and was smashed to bits, and we all turned out all right.

3. Even the youngest children up till now have managed to successfully separate reality from fiction in the case of Humpty Dumpty (unless they live with some very odd-looking people, in which case they need all the help they can get).

4. And just how exactly, I ask myself, are all the king's horses and all the king's men going to make Humpty happy again? Hmmm?

5. Could this be a royalist plot to make us believe all our problems can be solved by HRH and his merry men?

In their defence, the news report concluded, "A BBC spokesman said the changes were made for creative reasons. 'We play nursery rhymes with their original lyrics all the time and the small change to Humpty Dumpty was done for no other reason than being creative and entertaining,' he said.

"It is not the first time the BBC has tweaked a popular nursery rhyme to ensure a more sanitised ending.

"A recent CBeebies cookery show changed Little Miss Muffet so the little girl no longer runs away from the spider but instead becomes friends with the eight-legged creature."

Right ...

A "tweak" he calls it. I rather think that changing the fate of the character from annihilation to living happily ever after with the help of a bunch of horses and humans is far from tweaking. And what lessons does that teach the littlies? That it's all right to climb tall walls and fall off, because when you do, there'll be someone to make you "happy again."

At least our version of the rhyme had an object lesson -- if you don't listen to your mum when she tells you to stay off the wall, you'll end up scrambled like poor Humpty Dumpty!

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