Novelist and screenwriter Roald Dahl, 1976. (Photo by Tony Evans/Getty Images)

Speaking English is colonial terrorism

In fact, what’s so good about speech anyway?

Woke World

This article is taken from the April 2023 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

There has been much handwringing in the press lately over the progressive rewriting of Roald Dahl’s books, as though this were a bad thing. If I had my way, every copy of every book by every straight white male would be incinerated. Burning books that we don’t approve of is the only way to stop fascism.

Dahl’s books are compendiums of violence masquerading as “fiction”. For instance, he describes the character of Augustus Gloop as “fat”, which is extremely offensive to People of Girth. Thankfully, the sensitivity readers at Puffin Books have replaced the word “fat” with “enormous”. This is much more empowering. I’m forever congratulating my friend Janine on her enormous hips.

Other problematic terms have been excised from Dahl’s vile works, including “ugly” and “brute”. In addition, the phrase “formidable female” has been replaced with “formidable woman” (even though “womxn” would have been much better). 

He literally erased all the black characters

Dahl has a history of offensive behaviour. In the first edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964), the Oompa-Loompas are black pygmies from “the very deepest and darkest part of the African jungle where no white man has been before”. Nearly a decade after the book’s publication, Dahl himself changed the novel so that the Oompa-Loompas were no longer black. He literally erased all the black characters — and we’re meant to believe that he wasn’t a racist? 

Dahl has also been accused of antisemitism, which I absolutely can’t abide. I adore Jews. They’re so smart and cunning. 

Ultimately, the problem isn’t Dahl — it’s the English language. I genuinely believe that writing or speaking English is an act of colonial terrorism. 

So instead of simply tinkering with children’s literature, why not just stop teaching children how to speak in the first place? Dangerous language normalises hate and wrong opinions. To live in a truly free society, there must be limits on individual forms of verbal expression. So, if we never talk to children, or provide them with books, they will simply grow up without the capacity to express hateful ideas. 

I can’t believe no one else has thought of this.

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