Those old enough to remember this TV show (1974-1981) know that its real title included an offensive word. No, not the one legitimised on TV by Kenneth Tynan in 1965.
By 1974 the world had become progressive enough to relegate Tynan’s pioneering effort to the status of common parlance – but not yet progressive enough to ban the word that did appear in the title: ‘Mum’.
That oversight has now been corrected by a new language guide issued by the Local Government Association. This prescriptive document mandates the elegant locution “birthing parent”, explaining to council chiefs that the role of language is to embed “equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion”.
To that end, the words ‘mum’, ‘dad’, ‘ladies and gentlemen’ and so on are henceforth off limits. After all, “Experiences of trauma, racial trauma and exclusion are already experienced at disproportionately higher rates by LGBTQ+, black and neurodivergent people in the workplace.”
Experiencing such experiences upsets the experienced authors of the guide who set out to protect the experiencers from traumatic experiences – while teaching others how to use English.
They don’t specify ways in which they propose to enforce their oligophrenic fiats, but these can be inferred from parallel developments. One such involves Caroline Farrow, a devout Catholic journalist who let the side down by marrying an Anglican vicar.
That minor glitch aside, Mrs Farrow has the power of her convictions by refusing to recognise as legitimate the mutilation of both language and children’s bodies. As a result, she has had her collar felt twice.
The first time was in 2019, when she had a verbal TV joust with the transgender campaigner Susie Green. To her credit, the latter practised what she preached by having encouraged her son to become her daughter, which made him/her/it the world’s youngest person to undergo sex change surgery.
Yet Mrs Farrow not only referred to the child as ‘him’, not ‘her’, but later also tweeted: “What she did to her own son is illegal. She mutilated him by having him castrated and rendered sterile while still a child.”
Upholding the inchoate tradition of snitching, Miss Green went to the police. That led to Mrs Farrow’s arrest and a four-month investigation that eventually had to be dropped.
But that was three years ago. That’s a long time, considering that everything about modernity is progressive, including its schizophrenia. This time around she may not get off so lightly.
The other day two police officers forced their way into Mrs Farrow’s house without a warrant, dragged her outside and body-searched her for having violated the rules of progressive usage. Having had all her electronic devices confiscated, she was then taken to a police station where she was kept under lock and key for several hours.
Apparently, the police attributed to Mrs Farrow a series of “harassing” and “malicious” posts that appeared anonymously at a time when she was playing the organ at mass in her husband’s church.
Yet DCI Bentley evidently still hasn’t been instructed to disregard the presumption of innocence in such cases (another oversight doubtless to be soon corrected). The police, he said, have confiscated the electronic devices to “gather further evidence and carry out an investigation to prove or disprove the allegation”.
If Mrs Farrow is indeed found to have advocated the subversive idea that women can’t have penises, nor men vaginas, she can get up to two years under the Malicious Communications Act. Since she has previous, the maximum sentences will be practically guaranteed.
As DCI Bentley explained, the police have a duty to investigate every “grossly offensive message” – in preference, he might have added truthfully, to investigating burglaries, muggings, assaults and other things perceived as less offensive than using old-style pronouns.
A problem may arise, you might think, with a precise definition of “grossly offensive”. In fact, some sticklers for casuistic detail may even argue that no definition would ever be precise enough to take to court. After all, what’s grossly offensive to some may be casually dismissed by others – and vice versa.
For example, I’m grossly offended by having pop music played in a restaurant. However, realising that others may feel differently, rather than reporting the owner to the police I simply walk out and look for a quieter eating environment .
It takes cross-checking Mrs Farrow’s case and its relevant laws with others to arrive at a working definition. Here it is: Any statement is “grossly offensive” if perceived as such by a member of a minority group, no matter how tiny, seen as useful in promoting the destruction of our civilisation.
Having written this, I’ve realised that I myself was a serial offender some 30 years ago. At that time I worked with a chap, let’s call him Fred, who suddenly dropped out of sight to come back a few months later as Fiona.
Yet every time I bumped into him at industry functions I automatically said, “Hi, Fred”. It was merely a habit, not a conscious expression of opprobrium.
In Fred’s case, the habit was reinforced by his hint of five o’clock shadow, proving that electrolysis has its limitations. Nor could he get the walk quite right, hampered as Fred was by the difference in the pelvic architecture of men and women.
I shudder to think what would happen if I committed the same indiscretion, nay crime, today. Instead of writing seditious articles, I’d be writing letters of grovelling contrition to judges and prison warders.