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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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Blogger Bev said...

They DID put Humpty together again? No wonder kids get in trouble after a cottonwool-wrapped childhood where there are no bad consequences for their actions. They never career downhill in an out-of-control go-cart and experience the pain of crashing because 'it's not safe' to let them do that. Video games confirm that they're unbreakable - hey, you can just start again with a new life. Kids need to learn about danger by experiencing it - just like Humpty did. Leave our stories alone!

Fri. Oct. 30, 01:05:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Sharon Lippincott said...

Oh, you go girl! I blush to admit I never thought deeply enough about PC to realize it is global and not just the USA. That news is both a relief and horrifying.

I'm a raving lunatic of an advocate for writing life stories and memoir, and a large part of the reason I beat this drum is to remind people of the importance of preserving the Truth of History:

Write about things like prejudices you grew up with. Write them real before the PC folks sweep the ugly part of history under the rug or whitewash it out of existence for future generations. After all, certain factions are still maintaining the concentration camps are fiction. One of my students has written extensively about his experiences going into two camps with the first line of liberation while the ovens were still hot. For nearly sixty years he kept this experience secret until he began writing. Now he proclaims it from the rooftops.


And so is the truth of Humpty Dumpty and all nursery rhymes!

Fri. Oct. 30, 01:06:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Ian said...

How about Humpty Dumpty? But did you know he lives nearby? In the Queensland Legislative Assembly no less ... but, he is not allowed to use the word "lie" (as in "He told a lie") - if he does, the Speaker will eject him from the Chamber. PC gone completely bonkers!

Ian from Brisbane

Fri. Oct. 30, 01:59:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bloody oath, we should all jump up and down about the sanitisation. Brainwashing only benefits those who DON'T live in the real world. The squish between your toes when one walks through the duck pen, isn't near as bad as they would have us believe.

Fri. Oct. 30, 05:38:00 pm AEST  
Blogger brummyknitter said...

baa baa blacksheep... wool, being the 18th Century staple product and wealth-producer for England, and a blacksheep being the best of the best wools, the nursery rhyme captured not only that England was wealthy, but that there was a proposal that it ought also to provide for not only the wealth-producing class but also for the widow and orphan and those less fortunate... socialism 18th Century-style. So, there would be a portion for the master, one for the widow and one for the orphan and needy. All nursery rhymes were a way of communicating information round the country, at a time when most people were totally illiterate.

As to Ian of Queensland saying "lie" is a word which can get a member of the House of Parliament slung out, the phrase "economic with the truth" was how Margaret Thatcher, erstwhile Prime Minister of Gt Britain, got round the problem.

Judith in birmingham, england

Fri. Oct. 30, 06:45:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Richard English said...

The Beeb have also sanitised "Sing a song of sixpence"

After the maid got her nose pecked off by a blackbird, to stop children from having nightmares about this event, the Beeb have written another stanza:

"She made such a commotion
That little Jenny wren
Flew down into the garden
And put it back again"

And that bit of pointless tinkering goes back around 50 years - so the Beeb's PC habits are long-established.

Fri. Oct. 30, 07:06:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Liz said...

What was that one?

Georgie porgie, pudding and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry
When the boys came out to play
Geordie porgie ran away.

That's probably a bit off, since I barely remember it, much less the spelling: but they sanitized things like Humpty Dumpty, Little Miss - ah, why am I thinking Muppet? Sorry. Battling some form of common illness the last couple of days. Nothing major, except that it's a major nuisance.

Personally, I never quite grasped this "Georgie Porgie" thing. Had he eaten a ton of garlic? But they should have left the Humpty Dumpty one alone, unless they too kthe leftover egg shell and made some form of mosaic for a memorial tribute.

Fri. Oct. 30, 08:47:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just silly. The original nursery rhymes are bleak because life was harsh back them. People die and it's pointless to try and gloss over that fact. And if they change Humpty Dumpty who knows what's next... I suppose the London Bridge Never fell down ("London bridge is falling down"), the black death never happened ("Ring around a Rosie") and that Jack and Jill never fell don the hill ("Jack and Jill").

Anyway, while I'm all for equality and social diversity, PC has gone way to far. We're not even supposed to use the term "brain storm" (as in the group creativity technique) anymore since it's another word for an epileptic seizure. Instead it is suggested we call it a "thought-shower".

Fri. Oct. 30, 11:15:00 pm AEST  
Blogger Liz said...

Ha. Thought shower. I started calling "barnstorming", just to coin a newaphorism.

Fri. Oct. 30, 11:35:00 pm AEST  
Anonymous bronte said...

Apart from which, spiders are notoriously unreliable, and to encourage children to make friends with all species of them is asking for trouble!Far better for Miss Muffett to dash off as quickly as her little legs would allow. On a serious note, these nursery rhymes have intent, moral and linguistic! Maybe the BBC was just being contentiously humourus. And,as for sanatizing the world for children ... don't get me started on that one!

Sat. Oct. 31, 06:40:00 am AEST  
Blogger Eileen said...

Those of you that grew up with English nursery rhymes and love a good read should investigate the 'Nursery Crimes' books by Jasper fforde. In 'The Big Over Easy' DI Jack Spratt and DS Mary Mary delve into the murder of Mr Humpty Dumpty, found smashed to pieces under a wall, while in 'The Fourth Bear' they track down contraband porridge and argue about the Right to Arm Bears. fforde's books are witty, full of literary allusions and word plays (especially in characters' names), while at the same time being good whodunits.

I like the way nursery rhymes not only reflect the culture of bygone days, as several bloggers have pointed out, but also the ways they can be modified as culture changes. One that I remember from my teenage years in England came about when street vending machines first made an appearance, selling (of all things) fresh (or not so fresh) milk:

Mary had a little cow
She milked it with a spanner
The milk came out in shilling tins
And little ones for a tanner

Best wishes

Mon. Nov. 02, 08:30:00 am AEST  
OpenID gerardinebaugh said...

The trend these days is too not show the bad side of life, and sugar coat everything.

What consequences will this have in children’s lives later on, when they find out everything isn’t perfect, and everyone doesn’t really like us all the time.

Possibly even not at all.

I started a nature Blog, my own ramblings, from my own back yard. Come by if you have a change and give me your opinion.

Gerardine Baugh

Mon. Nov. 23, 12:55:00 pm AEST  

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