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Watch your Language, especially if it’s not posh. Where’s the Thesaurus?

Words,Meanings & Offence

Dare I ask – who is defending the men? We of course see offensive language against men as well as against women. But I cannot recall such a media outrage when a woman insults a man. It would be wrong to expect men to bear and grin it, indeed sexist to expect them to. Women have quite rightly addressed misogyny/what they find offensive language/behaviour to them, but we’ve heard less about what is offensive to men. We’ve heard the word misogyny frequently recently, but seldom hear the word misandry. Indeed, why the focus only on sexual/gender offence. There is a long list of offending words/behaviour that is not sexual/gender related, but arguably equally offensive.

Offending by association: If we say, “He drives his car like an idiot” that may be offensive to people of low IQ who, despite their low IQ, would have the conscience not to drive like that. If we said, “He drove his car like a maniac” that could offend people who have mental illness. I.e. We can all be offended for a variety of reasons, if we wish to take offence, irrespective of whether any offence was intended. Some people may be more ‘prone’ to take offence than others. If we offend by association (E.g. Incorrectly associating bad behaviour with intelligence or mental illness, etc) then we would have to say instead – “He drove his car without due care and attention, too fast and recklessly.”

Are we taking a stance of those deserving and undeserving of insulting/offensive language?

If we call a man a male chauvinist pig: would it be OK without the word pig, irrespective of whether the allegation was deserving/undeserving. If we call a woman a “Slut” - that is deemed offensive, even if it is true. Is it simply a case of finding a less offensive way of expressing thoughts, or are we expected to keep such thoughts to ourselves.

Are we prevented from speaking the truth in our endeavours not to offend? Is it not the case that criticism always offends?

Offend nicely – use posher words? Are we allowed to say – “What a bitch she is” Or should we say, “What a nasty, spiteful person she is.” To what extent and in what way Is the one way of saying it ‘better’ than another way of saying it, if the meaning is the same? With what words/phrases should we replace the words and phrases that are so commonly used, in our endeavour to avoid being ‘offensive’? Seems we want to say the same thing but put it nicely. E.g. Instead of saying – “Theresa May is a useless twit”, we say “Theresa may shows incompetence.” Are we not being a bit snobby about use of language to some extent? Are we not fooling ourselves that less offence will be taken if we offend by using posher words? It seems one cultural group does not like the way another cultural group expresses its opinions. Saying, “A useless twit” is considered ‘rude’ but saying, “Incompetent” is not considered rude.

Discrepancy between what we think and what is acceptable to say: Most of us would try to avoid hurting someone’s feelings: even if in our minds we may think something, we avoid saying it. But when does ‘criticism’ become ‘offence’?

Where do we draw the line – are we not losing focus? It is not always that easy to see where we draw the line and many people have probably said something in jest/anger/ignorance at some point in their life. If everyone was to be suspended/sacked for a comment they made on social media 15 years ago, they’d probably be an awful lot of people suspended/sacked. Tory owned media leaves the public in ignorance about an MP’s policies that will affect peoples’ lives, but instead focuses on his inappropriate use of the word “Bitch.”

Hypocrisy: Sometimes the complainants are as guilty of offensive language as the person they are complaining about are. Tory MPs were quick to attack a Labour MP for offensive language, but Tories have equally used offensive language. However, since most of the Newspapers are owned by Tories, the public are less likely to hear about the inappropriate language/behaviour of Tories.


Ambiguity: Words often have more than one meaning & outside context/perspective can be misinterpreted. Offence is often taken, when sincerely no offence was intended. How many times have we had to say in life “No, I didn’t mean that, you’re misunderstanding.”

Retaliation: Should we be aiming to never use offensive/insulting language against anyone, under any circumstances? This means that when we are insulted we remain polite and do not resort to insulting back. In pursuit of professionalism/moral stance It would be no defence to say – they insulted me first. Might we sometimes be sweeping wrongs under the carpet/letting people off lightly if we do not directly express ourselves. Has it become offensive to criticise?

Agenda: The truth hurts and it hurts not only the person the comment was directed to, it hurts others, especially when they can use it as a political weapon – in which case it is questionable whether their agenda is e.g. really/only women’s rights and/or to damage political opponents.

Both language and behaviour causes offence: We can certainly try not to offend, but unless we restrict criticism it will be extremely difficult to avoid offending someone at some point in our lives. A person may cause no offence with their words, but cause much offence by their actions. Some are a lot more offended by the suffering that Gov’t Policies are causing than by a Labour MP inappropriately using the word “Bitch”.

I find it offensive that people are suffering and dying unnecessarily in the UK. I find it offensive that the lives of Private Patients are saved, whilst NHS Patients die unecessarily. I find it offensive that elderly are left without adequate social care……I can find many reasons to be offended beyond being offended by words.

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