Action Alert!

Lest we give offense

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 19, 2004

The Telegraph reports that, sadly, the folks supervising Scotland's police have stopped taking their meds:

Police officers have been warned not to ask people if they are married in case it causes offence to homosexuals, it was disclosed yesterday. The directive is included in new guidelines, which also instruct officers not to call elderly people "old", use the term "homosexual" or refer to women as "pet", "love" or "dear". The Lothian and Borders Police guide advises officers against using the word homosexual because it is derogatory and stems from a 19th century notion that homosexuality was an illness that required a scientific label.

As always, once politics unmoors itself from reality, the resultant madness has no stopping point:

The guidance was issued after Scottish officers were sent on political correctness courses to teach them to stop using language that could offend minority groups. They were told to avoid using phrases such as "dyke", "manhole cover" and "accident blackspot".

Apparently innocuous terms such as "rule of thumb" and "nitty gritty" were found to be unacceptable because of their historical origins. Rule of thumb was deemed sexist because it dates from a law which forbade husbands from beating their wives with an implement thicker than a thumb. Nitty gritty was used by slave traders to describe the women or the remains at the bottom of transport ships that were covered in lice or grit.

Tom Wood, the Lothian and Borders deputy chief constable, said: "We live in very dangerous and sensitive times in terms of language and attitudes. People are very quick to take offence."

All things considered, I prefer an armed police force.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Jan. 20, 2004 3:04 PM ET USA

    Oh for a Bobby Burns to appropriately skewer the 'Ministry of Correct Speech'...! "It's hardly in a body's pow'r, to keep, at times, frae being sour."

  • Posted by: - Jan. 20, 2004 9:15 AM ET USA

    So whose gonna police the police? Oi. And I thought we lived in a free world. Silly me.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 19, 2004 8:55 PM ET USA

    Thanks sweetikins. It's always interesting to see how language is abused to move us further and further from reality. They also seem to be ignorant that the Spitzer of the APA who was influential in removing homosexuality from the diagnostic manual has had second thoughts about it.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 19, 2004 2:02 PM ET USA

    Are they considering banning the phrase "drawn and quartered" given the obvious insensitivity to Catholics who are rather touchy about having their head and limbs removed? No?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 19, 2004 1:47 PM ET USA

    Diogenes, I am afraid to comment on this report lest I inadvertently use a word or phrase that is offensive to someone, somewhere. At the rate that we are discovering offensive terms, we will soon be back to grunting in Neanderthalese. Is there really a Scottish police committee that sits around a large table scanning old dictionaries for18th and 19th Century words that might be offensive to someone in 2003? Will they go back as far as Chaucer or earlier?