Wednesday, 19 October 2011


A Bee.
Human kind is amazing. We have the unique ability to transmit complex information in the form of language; we can tell another of our species what is happening behind our eyes. Communication is not just a human trait, bee's are able to dance to show other bees where the top notch flowers are but only a humans can say how the flowers made then feel, chimpanzee's are able to convey anger and excitement and happiness but only humans are able to become wistful sharing stories of when they last felt like that.

Language is beautiful but it also has power... it's the way that we convey ideas like 'let's go over there and hit him'.

So how do we feel about 'mong'? Ricky Gervaise and Richard Herring have been having a conversation about the formers use of the word. Mr Herring, a well known contributor to SCOPE has taken issue with any use of 'the m word' and Mr Gervaise has responded with the thought that words change their meaning for example gay no longer means happy.

I have to admit on this subject I have to side with Mr Herring.

Language that is pejorative and potentially harmful can be used for comic effect. The well timed 'F-bomb' can be a delight, and I certainly don't subscribe to the idea that swearing is not big or clever; it can be very very funny in the hands of a skilled comedian. This language, however, has to be used in an atmosphere of mutual trust.

It was not the intention of Mr Gervaise to cause harm or pain. That I am certain of. That is unfortunately beside the point, whether the intention was valid the effects may not be. To really ramp it up and get the angry juices flowing how's this for an analogy; it's like the difference between murder and manslaughter. Was there an intention to do harm? Yes or no, the results are just the same.
Derrida being very French

If the other party is offended then it has been offensive and simply saying that the intention was noble doesn't take away the offence. As Jaques Derrida postulates in his work on 'deconstruction' when I describe a door to you the image in my head is different to the one in yours, so language fails. When I use potentially offensive language the meaning transmitted from my head may be very different to the received meaning in yours.

So what do you do?

Apologise, as Mr Herring says in his blog...

"I got some light complaints today about a potentially homophobic remark I had made during my improvised set in Soho on Saturday. It had not been my intention, but I agreed I hadn't expressed myself well in the heat of the moment and apologised"

We have all had those foot in mouth moments, and anyone who knows me will confirm that most of mine have been broadcast to thousands of people, but you ave to suck it up and apologise quickly and apologise hard because if you don't you may find your tarnished reputation will come back and haunt you...


On one of the message boards that I posted my blog I got an interesting response that I had to reply to. I thought That I'd share it with you.

PC gone mad if you ask me.
Each and every area of the Country has its own meaning for everything - at some point you will actually say something that will offend someone else.
My nan used to say she was patty slapping when she was making home made burgers - if she said that around Chesterfield she would be laughed at
Eventually we will all have to use the Queens English

 My response was.......
For me, the idea of PC is simply respecting the other person, and being mindful of their sensitivities. 
When it 'goes mad' it's restrictive, when it works it's compassionate.
The example of using language that's offensive to people living with disability isn't going mad with PC it's not being offensive.
The worst thing that I hear is "oh, you'll just have to take me as I am, I say what I mean me..." no, you're rude and too self-absorbed to think what affect what you're saying has on others.
Saying that we will all offend at some point is largely true, but ignoring that offence and thinking that they are just being PC breaks down a relationship, whether it’s personal or business faster than apologising, understanding the other persons concerns and learning from it

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