Five on a Treasure Island – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part 4

Having read chapters seven and eight a line at a time I can now say I found thirteen changes between them (again, not including random adding and removing of hyphens or I’d be here for a week.) Apologies in advance, there’s a bit of a grammar rant in here. It was one in the morning and I was tired.

A reminder of parts one, two and three in case you missed them.


I rather stand by my theory that the more action a chapter sees, the more changes it receives. Chapter six was pretty action packed and I noted twelve alterations, whereas chapter seven, which features much more talk and planning only has six. (Out of interest I did a page count, chapter six is only one page longer than chapter seven, as obviously a substantially longer chapter would have a lot more words that could possibly be altered. One page’s worth doesn’t seem significant to me. Not to double the alterations anyway.)

The first change I found is that whilst has become while. Whilst might be a little old-fashioned, but it’s still a perfectly good word, isn’t it?

Next, the line he [Timmy] didn’t seem to like the wreck at all, but growled deeply at it, has been changed. The but has become an and. They both mean the same thing, so why was it changed? Whether he didn’t like it, but growled instead, or didn’t like it and growled… it’s the same, and really doesn’t warrant an edit in my opinion.

Uncle Quentin’s threats are then watered down. In the original he announces he will keep [them] all in bed tomorrow. Nowadays he just threatens to keep [them] in. Likewise when the children say they’ll find themselves in bed, it instead becomes inside. Not sure about this change either. Keeping children in bed as a punishment probably seems old-fashioned, but it’s not exactly a crime of child cruelty. I imagine they would be allowed out to use the bathroom! It’s later said that they worry they might be sent to bed, so clearly not all punishments involving limiting them to bed are banned.

The last change is equally ridiculous. Dick lay back in a chair becomes on a chair.  There’s only one word for that, and it’s why? There’s a difference between being in a chair and on it, even if it’s very slight. Likewise being in your bed and on it are different, but both are acceptable! In the chair implies comfort, a certain cosiness which is lacking if you’re just on a chair.

This chapter makes me feel like the editor read it, couldn’t find anything to change, or not enough anyway, and so felt he wasn’t earning his money. So he went back and made a half-dozen petty changes to justify his job.


Slightly more action = slightly more changes.

Another whilst becomes while,  and like in several other places shorts become jeans so I’ll spare you my now-usual rant about weather-appropriate clothing and just point out they left the rubber-soled shoes alone, surely trainers would go better with the jeans?

That means I can save my ranting for these sorts of changes. The original talks about the rocks on which the great wreck rested. Seems perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it? Apparently it’s not, as the later editions reads the rocks in which the great wreck rested. It’s a boat, boats get stuck on rocks, not in them. The updated version can’t seem to make up its mind, as it later has a reference to the wreck being on the rocks.

Finally, a change that might be a positive one. Isn’t it strange to see bunks the sailors have slept in – and look at that old wooden chair, is how the original text reads. The paperback reads isn’t it strange to see bunks the sailors have slept in? – and look at that old wooden chair. The first part of the sentence is rather questioning. Sentences begging isn’t it or aren’t they etc usually are, though in this case it seems almost a statement. But a question mark followed by a dash? – I’m not so sure about that. Just doesn’t look right in either the text or this blog. A full stop, whether at the bottom of a question or exclamation mark, or on its own, denotes the end of a sentence. A dash is for joining two parts together. (Let’s not get into the difference between hyphens, m-dashes and n-dashes though.) How can you join a sentence fragment onto a finished sentence? If they’d wanted to put a question mark in, to me they should then have altered the start of the next sentence to “Oh, and look,” or something to that effect, assuming they care about the ‘don’t start a sentence with a conjunction’ rule.

The rest of the alterations are to do with the editor’s least favourite word: queer. A queer smell becomes a funny one, a queer sight becomes strange, instead of feeling queer the children feel uneasy (which to me isn’t the same thing at all!) and, slightly incongruously a queer trip becomes a weird one. I can’t remember weird appearing in any original famous five texts, though I could be wrong. It’s certainly in The Valley of Adventure, when the girls go into the cave of echoes, but it’s not a word used very often by Blyton I don’t think.

And that’s it for these chapters. Please do comment if a) you can point out multiple uses of weird in Blyton’s works, or b) think question marks and dashes of any kind go well together. Or if you have anything to say about any of these changes!

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17 Responses to Five on a Treasure Island – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part 4

  1. Francis says:

    Very impressed at your observations, Fiona – it shows an attention to detail which is admirable. I always welcome suggestions for changing my text if they add meaning or correct a mistake but that is not what is going on here. I still like the word queer which has several meanings including feeling ill or something that is strange. Thanks for your observations.


  2. I’ve been looking into the use of ‘weird’ for you – there are 8 uses of it in Five On A Secret Trail (mostly to do with the lights and sounds at the cottage),
    6 uses in Five Go Off To Camp and in The Secret Of Killimooin,
    5 in the Rockingdown Mystery and in the Island Of Adventure,
    4 in Ring O Bells Mystery, Five Get Into Trouble and in Five On Kirrin Island Again,
    3 in The Adventurous Four Again, Castle Of Adventure, Rubadub Mystery, Five Go To Billycock Hill, Five Go To Smuggler’s Top, Five Have A Mystery To Solve, Mystery Of Banshee Towers and in the Secret Of Moon Castle,
    2 in Five Go Down To The Sea, Five Run Away Together, The Mountain Of Adventure, River of Adventure, Secret Mountain, Ship Of Adventure and in Valley Of Adventure,
    1 in Rilloby Fair Mystery, Five Are Together Again, Five Go Adventuring Again, Five Have A Wonderful Time, and in The Sea Of Adventure. 😀 😀


    • fiona says:

      I was wondering how on earth you got that so quickly, and then I figured you had done a search through the e-books?
      Thanks though, it would seem it’s used a lot more often than I thought. Perhaps it was the context that made the word seem so modern and out of place, I will have to go back and look at the exact wording later.


      • Yes I just searched my Kindle – the search facility is a wonderful thing! 😀
        It lists all the books where the word appears and the number of times it appears in each book. 🙂
        If you’d like, when I have a spare hour, I could go through them and write down the context in which the word is used in the books? I’m not sure if you have a Kindle/e reader but it’s a lot easier for me to do it that way than for you to trawl through actual books, if you’d really like all the contexts? 🙂


        • fiona says:

          I’ve got the kindle app on my iphone, hudl and laptop but I’ve never used the search so I don’t know if it works the same. Not sure I can justify buying all the ebooks, especially as I’m thinking about buying some more paperbacks to do comparisons. Though I may buy one or two, and try to get different paperback editions to see when/if different sorts of changes were made at different times.


  3. Michael says:

         I agree (once again) that most of these changes are either pointless, or actually for the worse. Yes, the wreck should rest “on” the rocks, not “in” them. The “in/on” thing about chairs seems very slight, but “in” is probably preferable. With reference to beds, it probably means the difference between having the bed-clothes over you, or whether you just lie down on top of the made bed.

         “Isn’t it strange to see bunks the sailors have slept in – and look at that old wooden chair”, altered to put a question mark after “in”.
         In this case I agree with the alteration: not just maybe, but definitely. It is a question in grammatical form, which is what counts; and whether it almost “feels” like a statement is irrelevant. In fact, I regard this as little more than correcting a typing error, not a real change to the text.
         Questions marks can appear inside a sentence if the sense demands it, and it’s okay for a dash, semicolon, etc. to follow them immediately, or even no punctuation mark sometimes, just more of the sentence. The following punctuation mark (if any) would be chosen according to the structure of the sentence in the ordinary way, as if the question hadn’t been a question but just a statement.
         The key point is that that question mark should appear immediately after the end of the question, whether or not it is the end of the sentence.
         But it seems possible to me that Enid Blyton conservatively thought a question mark would look a bit odd coming before another punctuation mark and so left it out, although I would disagree strongly with that opinion. My feeling is that Enid Blyton’s grammar is basically sound, especially by today’s rather lax standards, but that she didn’t hesitate to deviate from it in small ways if she thought doing it properly would look a bit odd.

         Also, the “don’t start a sentence with a conjunction” “rule” is a bit of a misnomer. There is no rule, nor even guideline for good style, that requires this, any more than there is any prohibition against ending a sentence with a preposition or splitting an infinitive with an adverb.
         I do all these things myself on occasion, if the sense of the passage and good, readable style seem to call for it. (I started a sentence – even a paragraph – with “But” a little earlier.)
         The “rules” about split infinitives and terminal preposition probably arose because those things are impossible (for the split infinitives) and very awkward (for the prepositions) in Latin (impossible for the prepositions if you are using noun cases to convey the meaning of some prepositions). But English is not Latin, and has very different ways of handling infinitives and prepositions, and it is needlessly restrictive to insist that Latin practice be carried over into English. The “rules” are a figment of the imagination of a certain type of conservative, old-style grammar teacher, because it appears that good writers from a variety of historical periods have broken the “rules” themselves.

         I agree that perhaps “queer” was a bit over-used at times, but I never found it bothersome enough to think that editors should have weeded it out.

         Your latest article, Fiona, has me wondering what’s so politically incorrect about sending (or threatening to send) children to bed as a punishment. I guess children don’t like it; but then they don’t like any kind of punishment: if punishment isn’t unpleasant, then it isn’t punishment at all, and will have little effect.
         What methods of disciplining children do the book editors think is acceptable, and why do they think they need to force their views about that on their readers?

         Golly, Cathy – doing all that word-counting sounds like dozens of hours of tedious work. It would turn my brain to porridge to attempt that – and very likely destroy my enjoyment of Enid Blyton for a few years to come.
         I seem to remember an occasion when I was doing a similar kind of thing in an Enid Blyton book – I forget what, but checking for occurrences of something or other – but I stopped some way in when I not only found it extremely tedious, but found that it was damaging my appreciation of Enid Blyton’s books.
         It’s interesting to know about these things, but I don’t think it’s something I personally can do.


    • chrissie777 says:

      Hello Michael,

      I enjoyed your comment very much as always.
      But when I looked up “conjuction” in my online translator, it came up with “connection”.
      Could you please give me an example of a conjunction in a sentence?
      Thank you!



      PS: Is there any way to persuade you to fly from Australia to our EB get together in Borne End in May??? It would be great to finally meet you in person.


      • fiona says:

        A conjunction is words like “and”, “but”, “however,” etc. So in a way, connection is quite close as they can be used to connect short sentences. “It was not sunny. It was raining.” with a conjunction (connection) becomes “It was not sunny, but it was raining.”


      • Michael says:

        Hallo, Chrissie.

             You seem to be implying that, because “conjunction” means “connection”, a conjunction can only connect things if it is *inside* a sentence. But if it’s at the beginning of a sentence, it may be connecting thoughts in separate sentences sometimes, and not always different parts of the same sentence. In fact, I would say that that would almost always be the reason for starting a sentence with a conjunction. If you just look a couple of sentences back, you will see that I started a sentence with “But” – and I truly did that unconsciously because it seemed natural; not deliberately to illustrate the point. I *could* have put a semicolon after “*inside* a sentence” and followed it with “but”; but I think that would have made for too long a sentence, although it might have been clear enough. Or I could have used a comma instead of a semicolon, but that would make the sentence very rambling. I felt that starting a new sentence was best; but the meaning of “but” still applied, so I used “But”.
             This may give you further insight about the use of conjunctions:

             You will see that the article states: “In grammar, a conjunction (abbreviated conj or cnj) is a part of speech that connects words, sentences, phrases or clauses”; and I believe that this covers the use of a conjunction at the start of a sentence: it is connecting the sentence with the previous one, in meaning or relationship, if not literally by fusing them into one sentence.
             The article also says: “Many students are taught that certain conjunctions (such as “and”, “but”, “because”, and “so”) should not begin sentences. But authorities such as the Chicago Manual of Style state that this teaching has “no historical or grammatical foundation.””
             The following article gives a brief description of various disputed points about English grammar:

        The discussion is brief, but, for each item, there is a link to a further page which, although I haven’t checked them all, probably leads to a more detailed discussion of the point.
             I hope this helps.

             I’m sorry, Chrissie, but I would find it very difficult to commit to attending the gathering, although, if it were an ideal world without constraints of any sort, I would like to.

        Regards, Michael.


        • Michael says:

               I’m sorry, but the links I gave don’t seem to be active – I don’t know how to do that here. So you will have to copy the link text, and paste it into the address window of your Internet program – unless the moderators can actually turn my links into active ones. As far as I can see, this blog does not include a feature for posters to edit their own posts after they have been submitted, so I can’t change the links myself now to make them active.


          • fiona says:

            Stef and I can edit comments but I don’t know if there’s a way to make a link active. Links in comments might be disabled for spam protection reasons.


        • chrissie777 says:

          Well, maybe it will work out some other time :).


    • fiona says:

      Thanks again for your thoughts Michael, I must admit I was wondering what your opinion would be on these things as I wrote as I know you’re probably even more grammatically-minded than I am.

      To me in/on for chairs is slight but “in,” definitely implies the person has sunk down, comfortably and cosily, rather than ‘on’ which sounds like a harder, less comfortable experience.

      I still feel that a question mark followed by a dash looks wrong, though I suppose if I saw it more often I would probably get used to it.

      I certainly don’t follow the “rule” about starting sentences with conjunctions as I think sometimes it’s necessary to do so. I just wondered if the editors would feel that was a rule to follow as some people still do follow it.

      You’ve put my own work into better words there, I have to say, asking about the morality of punishing children by sending them to bed. The only thing I could think of was they were worried it sounded too inappropriate – a man sending children to bed?

      I do find examining a text so closely spoils the enjoyment (whether it’s for a forum readathon or a blog on the words used), but I don’t mind as it’s quite interesting. The next time I read it I’ll get more enjoyment from it again.


    • Its OK Michael – I couldn’t manually go through all my books either – I cheated somewhat and searched my Kindle – you type in a word and it lists all the books where the word appears, took about twenty minutes. 😀


      • Michael says:

             I didn’t think of that. I suppose I’m so old-fashioned and think in terms of books that searching through the actual pages of a book is what came to mind.
             Certainly not cheating – if such a mechanical task can be done in an automated way, it is the only way I could find tolerable.
             Is Enid Blyton available on Kindle now? But I could never even consider buying her work in this manner, since I am sure the books would be the “updated” (i.e., censored) editions.


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