A Lack of vocabulary

I have read, with increasing disbelief, the “appropriate language guide” put out by Lothian police, and reported on in today’s paper.  It solemnly intones the following:

“The English language appears to have evolved on the assumption that the world is male; this has not changed to any great extent, even though women now form some 52% of the population.”

If you are not aware that the term mankind is gender-inclusive, then you will doubtless be afforded some comfort by the information that “the Sex Discrimination Act, 1975, …. perpetuates the false imagery of the superiority of men to women.”  It seems that such terms as “manpower” can give offence – as can other “gender descriptive” terms, such as Charge Nurse (male) or “Sister” (female).  So who, pray, are these faint-hearted souls who are so nebulous where their sexuality is concerned that they will feel slighted by either of the above?

It gets worse. “There has been much debate over the years regarding the various “titles” used to address women, and, in particular, over the use of the word “Ms. It has been the misconception (fuelled, not surprisingly, by the tabloid press) that some women have used the term “Ms.” because they were “anti-men”, but this ignores the fact that the word has an historical background, dating back to the 17th century. It has been used by women as a title, which protects and retains their privacy and makes no statement about their marital status, which, of course “Mrs.” and “Miss” do very clearly. The term “Mr.” is used for all men, whether married or not, and “Ms.” is seen as an equivalent, universal title for women.” 

Let me tell you this: those who choose to call themselves Ms are either divorced or feminists (or both).  The terms “Miss”, “Mrs” and “Ms” are all abbreviations of Mistress – and if the feminists had had an atom of sense (in my opinion an attribute singularly lacking to those of the sisterhood who would have all women the equal of men in every respect, and who feel slighted if some chap hazards a compliment in the workplace) they would have settled on Mrs as the nomenclature of the older woman, much in the way that Frau is used in Germany.  This Ms of theirs has, whether they like it or not, political overtones, for which reason I shall remain Mrs, to denote both my status as a mother, and the fact that I was once married, albeit no longer.

The next minefield occurs over what they choose to describe as “lifestyle assumptions”.   “You should not assume that men or women will automatically be in relationships with people of the opposite sex, or that couples will be married. In an opposite-sex marriage, the terms “husband” and “wife” continue to be appropriate; in a same-sex marriage, or relationship, the term “partner” is best used.”

So our hapless Plod, considerably younger than the people he is interviewing, and mindful of the fact that he must not call any woman duck, love, dear or similar, wonders about their marital estate.  “And may I ask you,  – hang on, is that Ms, Miss or Mrs?”  Is it any wonder that he receives a dusty answer for his pains, much in the same way as the lady addressed by Gordon Brown before the election objected to being referred to as a “woman”? When it gets to the bit that says that women are not, as a sex, necessarily of a maternal bent, and that perhaps a man who is a father may have “more experience of, and empathy with, children”, I wonder how then these same police officers are to deal with the abusive parent of either sex.

 I will spare you the details on age, race and ethnicity or disability: you may look it up, should you be sufficiently interested.  Suffice to say, though, that yet again the Boys in Blue (undoubtedly a proscribed expression) have got things sufficiently wrong to ensure offence more often than not.  I think what most people object to is being taken for fools – and that, for me, trumps any consideration of political correctness.

7 thoughts on “A Lack of vocabulary”

  1. Oh I agree SP.
    In fact I would go as far as to say, forget the ceremony, call me what you want.

  2. If I may just go into bat for the girls/ladies who use the Ms title.

    I had a female flatmate during the early 80’s and she insisted on her mail being addressed as Ms (on official mail where a title was obligatory) or simply initial and surname (i.e. D Smith)

    Even 30 years ago girls over here were wary of stalkers and crazies.

  3. A sorry tale. The mind-set revealed might go some way to explaining why a nutter with a gun was allowed to rampage around the countryside shooting people while such a tardy response was organised, or a small boy was left to drown while those whose duty it is to ‘protect’ lloked on from the sidelines.

  4. Clement Freud once said that “Ms” sounded like a bumble bee with a hair lip… I’m inclined to agree with him.

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