Where the Sidewalk Ends and PC Begins…

Googies? Oops, is it safe to reference them that way in this age of political correctness?

PC isn’t a new thing, although back in 1974, the initials would be first associated with Personal Computers. Political Correctness as a recognized phrase wouldn’t begin popping up semi-regularly until the late 1980s.

It was in 1974 that Shel Silverstein’s book Where the Sidewalk Ends was published by Harper & Row. It’s an oddball sort of book with the collected poetry and writing of Mr Silverstein.

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Here’s a sample:

My skin is kind of sort of brownish pinkish yellowish white. My eyes are greyish blueish green, but I’m told they look orange in the night. My hair is reddish blondish brown, but its silver when its wet, and all the colors I am inside have not been invented yet.

On page 50 came the controversy. In the earliest printings, the poem on the page was titled The Gypsies. The term has been used to describe the Roma (or Romani) ethnic group of Europe and elsewhere.

I have read an article in the recent past that referenced the Roma people and mentioned gypsy as a pejorative term. Apparently the discussion started before the ‘recent past.’

It may be that the exact story is known to someone, but I could only gather that some objection to the term was brought forward, and Mr Silverstein (as the author of the poem) declined to make a change. In later printings, Harper & Row substituted the word Googies for Gypsies, but left everything else in place.

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I learned all this today, when an early printing copy of the book came into the shop, and sure enough – there are those G——s at the top of page 50.

My question is: Isn’t it likely that the Googies are just as negatively stereotyped now?

(Fortunately, I didn’t have a copy of this book when the kids were young. Those Googies/Gypsies might have come across as a little scary at bedtime…)

The book is one that I get calls for regularly, and own copies of infrequently. This one probably won’t last long, so if you’re in the market for an early (non-PC) copy, come on down!

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