After reading that the Bookstart charity — a project that encourages parents to read with their children, presumably so that parents can improve their literacy skills — has rewritten the familiar and much-loved sea shanty What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?, so that said sailor is no longer drunken but, instead, “grumpy”, I find myself a little concerned.
Now, claims have been made that this was not done in the name of “political correctness”. And I would never dream of saying that such an esteemed and worthwhile charity would ever lie about such a thing… well, actually, I would — but in this instance I am willing to take their word for it. It isn’t political correctness gone mad.
So what is it?
Well, it was, apparently, “a case of re-cycling a familiar tune for reading events that were based on a pirate theme”. Did you get that? A pirate theme. Not a local vicar theme. Not a missionary theme. Not even a Sound of Music theme. A pirate theme.
(I’m getting perilously close to calling the esteemed and worthwhile charity a bunch of liars, I know, so, I’ll move right along…)
Now, in my day (not that I was around at the time of these aforementioned pirates), pirates were a pretty nasty bunch. When I was a child, I understood that they did all the things that we good people weren’t supposed to. They robbed, murdered, raped, made each other walk the plank and drank lots and lots of rum. That’s what pirates did. Thematically, they were a bad bunch of bastards.
Which begs the question, if they wanted a pirate theme why on earth would they insert action lyrics like “wiggle” and “tickle”? Purely from a personal perspective I have to say I find the prospect of a wiggling and tickling pirate pretty bloody disturbing, but maybe that’s just me.
(Okay, prepare yourself — I’m about to say it…)
Someone’s fibbing, I think! This was a decision based on political correctness! And anyone who says differently? Well, I’ll shave his belly with a rusty razor!
One has to ask oneself what next. I am well aware that this particular sea shanty has already been diluted somewhat in the past — but the very notion of “cleaning up” pirates surely defeats the point. As attractive as Johnny Depp’s pirate efforts might be, the reality was a lot harsher and bloodier. They certainly didn’t tickle each other… well, not in any kind of way you’d want your five-year-old thinking about.
So either treat the subject with a degree of accuracy or leave it alone.
And if you decide that you don’t want to take my generous advice — how about you try rewriting this: ‘Twas on the good ship Venus…