Here on Beautiful Ethnic-slur Island!

I often like to listen to languages I sort of know and/or am learning as background noise. Youtube is great for this because they have whole audiobooks in dozens of different languages.

Anyhoo, I decided to listen to this Italian version of Agatha Christie’s “And then there were none” (Dieci piccoli Indiani). Imagine my surprise when I realized they were using an earlier version of the work with the original geographic names. I’m listening along and suddenly there’s “Nigger Island” (untranslated) popping out of the stream of Italian. In later versions it was renamed “Indian Island” or “Soldiers Island” in English but here they keep repeating “Nigger Island” about 80,000 times.

To be clear I’m not complaining or saying that’s wrong, it’s extraordinarily ethnocentric and xenophobic to expect the rest of the world to keep up with and follow English speaking neuroses and changing taboos. It’s just… different and a rather odd translating choice. Quick checking showed that Spanish versions use “Isla del Negro” (Island of the Black Man?) and a German version I could find used Soldatensinsel (Soldiers Island) so it’s weird to use Indiani ‘Indians’  in the title of the book but then not translating the place name at all.

Also,  IINM in the UK of the time the novel was written ‘nigger’ was used more to refer to those from South Asia rather than Sub Saharan Africa.

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5 Responses to Here on Beautiful Ethnic-slur Island!

  1. goldsteinweb says:

    Oh, my f*ck*ng G-d, you have spelt out the N-word!
    Hasn’t Voldemo…hasn’t the one who may not be named forbidden it?

    • cliff arroyo says:

      Yeah but I did it in Italian so it doesn’t count. And I tend to agree with Louis K on “the N-word”

      • goldsteinweb says:

        “Next time I say something disparaging I will also say that it was Italian”
        -Anthony “Mooch” Scaramuccy

        Just kidding. Louis K is spot on!

        Now a real quote:

        “I succeeded by saying what everyone else was thinking”
        -Joan Rivers

        I’m curious. You make always so much sense. Are you from “fly-over America”?

  2. Autumn Cote says:

    Would it be OK if I cross-posted this article to There is no fee; I’m simply trying to add more content dive6rsity for our community and I enjoyed reading your work. I’ll be sure to give you complete credit as the author. If “OK” please let me know via email.


    • cliff arroyo says:

      Go ahead as long as I’m credited and there’s a link back here (to the blog, not necessarily the particular post). And if it would be removed should I ever request that.

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