Be Warned: These are the scribblings of a writer unruly, unsupervised, and largely unrepentant

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Why nobody should ever "Dumb Down"

In the past, I've had editors tell me to change words in books because "our readers won't understand it". I think about that statement in its little red box quite often.
"You can't use that word. Change it. Our readers won't know what it means."
"Really? (I wanted to say at the time)? Well, MY readers WILL understand. If they don't know what it means, it's something new to learn - if they WANT to. It's their choice - not anybody else's. I'm not going to take that choice away from them. I'm not going to substitute some other word, because I think they are too stupid to figure it out. I know MY readers are far from stupid."
But of course, I couldn't say that then. I was only the author - a newly signed one too. And readers, you have no idea how low on the totem pole an actual "author" is in a fairly large publishing house. We have no say over the cover, the characters, some of the words/phrases used, even the title of the book.I've even been told to change the hair color of a hero because they had the "perfect" cover. It's all in their hands.
So, if  "their" readers don't know The Word that needed to be changed, how did I learn it? I'm not an alien from another plant - believe it, or not; I'm only from England. And I learned (shocker) from an education that my father does not want to know about, and (even further shocker) anybody can now learn from looking it up. The Webternet is a fabulous place, not to be feared, and it can be put to far more than checking on the latest "trending" exploits of a large-bottomed, or bony-bottomed, person having sexual intercourse with anybody who'll have them.
Of course, I knew The Word because I WANTED to know it. I'm assuming my readers, who I know are all lovely, intelligent, lively, lusty people, will want to use it too. Why wouldn't they? Why would they not want to expand their world? Don't we all? Isn't that why we are here?
The Word - I can tell you now - was "Scrumpy".
See - if you don't know it, you can look it up. Although, if you drank it, you might actually forget what it means! If you read it in one of my books for the first time, you can thank me  -- with a small donation to yourself.
I'm not trying to compare anything I scribble down to the works of William Shakespeare - LOL. (I've been accused of comparing myself to Jane Austen - which I wouldn't do if you gave me a million and Travis Fimmel, mute, in a basket). But let me just finish (and I hear you shout "YES, please do finish so I can get back to my scrumpy") with this thought:
Shakespeare wrote his plays primarily to please the "groundlings" that populated the standing space (cheapest, non-seats) in the theatre where his works were performed. These were his friends, the people he lived amongst. He wasn't worried about what they "got". And yet, EVERYBODY  loved it - if they hadn't loved it, his works would not have survived five hundred years. The funny thing is, now, people say "Shakespeare's too hard for me" and "I don't understand it". Hmm - could that be due to the dumbing down that is taking place, and has taken place, over the many, many years since then?
Don't let it happen any further. If you, like me, enjoy words and are thirsty for a real story, support those writers who are trying to put them - without vocabulary censorship -  out there. 
Otherwise, I fear that only twenty years from now, we'll not only have books all with the same plot line and slight variations, but books about the English Regency, or any other historical period,  filled with "she was all like" and " he'd gotten" and "that's lame" and "Whatevs".
Listen, there is nothing wrong with a take-out, fast food burger. I should know. But you can't live on that. It's actually been proven. Don't rely on ingredients that are being heavily marketed to you, as if you can't choose for yourself, as if that's you're only choice.
You might actually like something different once in a while.
Crikey! Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs and drink a pint of scrumpy. 

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