Perhaps not?

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Posted by John Richardson on July 25, 1998 at 16:38:56:

In Reply to: Is it not a disgrace that the BBC changed Titty's name? posted by Julien Foster on July 25, 1998 at 15:33:45:

I presume that Julien if referring to the 1960's B&W BBC TV series, which despite its recent run at the NFT, I have still not seen.

Whilst I hate PC in all its forms, and am with Julien on that, I think he is right - and answere his own question - when he says:

I suppose the only argument that COULD be used in favour of the change is this: when Ransome was writing, perhaps the word did not have its current connotations. Using the word might therefore distort Ransome's image to contemporary children...and his world is, of course, an entirely asexual world. Or is it? Now there's a potential minefield.

On the last, mischevous point, I am sure 'Titty' was an asexual word for Ransome, even if not for everyone in the early 1930's - someone with the latest edition of the OED might be able to comment on that.

But times change, and if one of the hall-marks of good writing is that it endures, as Ransome has, one cannot (and should not try) to future-proof a book completely. If a children's book is to endure therefore, one must sympathize with the difficult choices a sensitive editor might make to ensure that: and remember it is not the survival of the book's regard amongst a nostalgic adult or academic audience that matters: for a children's book, that is not survival at all: it is the ability of a book to win new child readers.

So whilst John, Nancy and all, must always remain children of the twenties and thirties, must continue to inhabit a world where twenty shillings and 240 pence make up a pound, one might sympathise with an edition which changed Titty's name - if that name is likely to raise mirth amongst 9-13 year olds, and awkward questions from the 6-9 year olds. My own father, who unlike my mother, never read the books as child (his loss!) can never resist the cheap dig of asking with mock incredulity: "How could Ransome name a pre-pubescent child Titty?"

AR's books retain the rare priviledge of being available, 70 years after their publication, in both hard back and paper back editions. That being the case, one could envisage a situation - and support it - where the Jonathan Cape hard backs become the authoritative, historical editions, with the original artwork and Titty as "Titty" - plus the references to Bridgit's abduction by the eels in SW which have raised some chuckles and eyebrows from knowing 90's readers; whilst the Red Fox editions were allowed a little leeway in nurturing a new audience.

If in the end, that means changing Titty's name - maybe to 'Mavis' - then perhaps we should understand and give it half-hearted support. But it hasn't happended yet.

Penultimately, (pardon the essay!), I was interested to note in Titty's obituary, the incorrect, and then the correct (from Bridgit) etymology of Titty's name. I had always assumed it was short for 'Titanya' (spellin?!) - perhaps because of Ernest Altounyan's near-eastern roots.

And lastly, on that note, may I join all the other TARS, in expressing my sympathy to Bridgit and her other relatives and friends, on the death of a person who inspired AR to create such a character, and made such a significant and individual contibution in her own right, in 'real' life.

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