What’s in a word?


Shakespeare gave one answer to that question; Hamza Yousaf, Scotland’s first minister, another. At the risk of offending our great bard, Mr Yousaf’s answer is more replete with implications.

According to him, what may be in a word is criminal prosecution for ‘misgendering’, a term one will try in vain to find in Shakespeare’s vast vocabulary. Moreover, I’m sure he wouldn’t have been able to understand the term even if it had been explained to him.

But you do, don’t you? Of course, you do. After all, you haven’t been living on Mars all this time. Misgendering means using personal pronouns appropriate for a person’s sex at birth. That is, still describing a deranged man who suddenly claims to be a woman or a spaniel as a ‘he’ and not, respectively, ‘she’ or ‘it’.

Such stubbornness can be exacerbated by any attempt to rationalise Pronoungate (I’m proud of my neologism). If you argue that, since it’s impossible to change one’s sex, we are all stuck with one of the original two, each complete with its own set of pronouns, you’ve just graduated from misdemeanour to felony. And if, God forbid, you cite that reactionary book on the subject of “male and female created he them”, we’re talking capital crime.

Such is the upshot of Mr Yousaf’s addition to the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act, which appropriately went into effect on All Fools’ Day. This instantly became a global issue thanks to the tweeted comment by Scotland’s most famous and possibly richest resident, J.K. Rowling.

Being herself woke in every other respect, she voiced her opposition in characteristically convoluted terms: “In passing the Scottish Hate Crime Act, Scottish lawmakers seem to have placed higher value on the feelings of men performing their idea of femaleness, however misogynistically or opportunistically, than on the rights and freedoms of actual women and girls.”

I’m not quite sure what she meant, other than expressing some vague opposition to the Act. Miss Rowling thus issued a ‘come and get me’ invitation to the police, who have so far refused to take her up on it.

Then Ally McCoist, the former Scotland footballer, claimed that he and 48,000 other Rangers fans would breach the law at this weekend’s match with Celtic. At least that’s what I think he claimed: his accent isn’t always penetrable.

I’m happy to report that not all Scotsmen are so-o-o-o yesterday. At least 6,000 of them have got into the spirit of the times by either demanding that Miss Rowling be imprisoned or, more sinister, denouncing their friends and neighbours for the hate crime of misgendering.

Police Scotland are duty-bound to investigate all such reports, and the more they investigate the mightier the influx of denunciations. Since by all accounts Scottish police occasionally also have other crimes to contend with, they’ve responded to the challenge with the pragmatic ingenuity for which Scotsmen are so justly famous.

A network of over 400 ‘third-party reporting’ centres have been created, where irate people can report hate crimes. They can also do so anonymously, and where else did I observe that convenient possibility in my youth?

Moreover, 500 hate crime ‘champions’ have been trained to referee and filter such reports before they reach the police’s good offices. All in all, one has to marvel at how pragmatic people can be when dealing with institutionalised insanity.

Vindicating Newton’s Third Law, Mr Yousaf’s action caused a reaction. Some Scots got angry and, according to P.G. Wodehouse, “It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.” They demanded that Mr Yousaf himself be indicted under the Act for his 2020 speech in which he railed that almost all senior public posts in Scotland were held by white people.

By since claiming the top such post for himself, Mr Yousaf has done much to reverse that iniquity, but racial rancour in his speech was unmistakable. Fair is fair: if J.K. Rowling should be done for a hate crime, then she should be handcuffed to Yousaf.

Things haven’t gone as far yet, but the outcry has been loud enough. Everyone from the Catholic Church to the National Secular Society has voiced all the usual concerns about suppressing free speech and encouraging snooping. Hence Mr Yousaf felt called upon to issue a disclaimer.

Don’t you worry about free speech, he said: “people should have the right to be offensive and to express controversial views.” Alas, the treatment implied in that blanket statement just may be worse than the disease.

You might have noticed that levity creeps into my tone whenever I talk about the worst symptoms of modern lunacy. I don’t have in my psychological makeup the ability to discuss seriously which pronouns are appropriate for which of the 100-plus sexes supposedly in existence. If a man chooses to wear a skirt, he remains a man to me – and I don’t mean kilts here, as I hope my Scottish friends realise.

Nor do I acknowledge that simply stating biological facts can be construed as a crime. If lunatics decide to play that game, I can’t stop them. But neither can I be expected to join in.

However, I do have a serious problem with the statement that “people should have the right to be offensive”. This is at best a circular argument, at worst a foolish one.

Suppose for the sake of argument that a politician delivers a speech arguing that all Jews should be gassed and all blacks lynched. Does he have a right to be as offensive as that?

Obviously not. So let’s narrow the example down then. Suppose a passer-by says that sort of thing to a Jew or a black in the street. Would that be exercising the right to free speech?

Does the person on the receiving end have any recourse? A punch in the snout would come naturally but, first, not everyone is fit to deliver one and, second, that sort of thing is illegal. We aren’t supposed to protect ourselves; that’s what we have police for.

This is reductio ad absurdum, of course. The example I’ve proposed falls under the rubric of inciting racial hatred, and we’ve had laws against it for decades. So fine, think of your own examples of intolerable insults, those offending a person’s honour and dignity. Then think of the last time honour and dignity had any tangible meaning.

When a decade ago one footballer called another a “f***ing black c***”, only the middle word was deemed culpable. Calling an old man who accidentally jostled someone on a bus the other two words is perfectly all right. Nothing illegal there.

A curious dichotomy is observable here. On the one hand, people are ordered to be hypersensitive even to personal pronouns they consider misused. On the other hand, they are trained to think that words don’t matter.

Thus, when a politician utters something godawful, his fans wave objections away. It’s not his words, but his deeds that matter. Quite. So what if, say, a German chancellor tweets “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer”? Or, more realistically, if a US president describes an avowed enemy of his country “a genius”? Shall we agree then that, in some situations, some words are actually deeds?

Sorting those words out would take more than 500 Scottish ‘champions’. Add a few zeroes to that number, and we still won’t be able to come up with any objective criteria of legal or illegal offensiveness. And subjectively, anything can be classified as an imprisonable offence.

The issue is fundamental. We are observing hectic self-serving attempts to introduce absolutes into an inherently and institutionally relativist landscape. This reverses the old trend of overlaying hitherto unshakable absolutes with relativities.

Prosecuting someone for saying ‘he’ instead of ‘she’ is a logical development of the liberal mindset geared to destroy every last fragment of our civilisation. The old certitudes have been cast aside, with their place taken up by ersatz relativities serving as weapons in the hands of modern vandals.

When the Gestapo told Hermann Göring that one of his deputies was a crypto-Jew, he replied: “At my headquarters, I decide who is and who isn’t a Jew.” Applying the same logic, victorious modernity decides which relativity should be raised to an absolute and which absolute demoted to a relativity. In other words, which weapons should be commissioned and which decommissioned.

We may attack one modern perversion after another, don Quixote-style, only to find that those awful giants are actually windmills. It’s impossible to score any lasting victories without defeating the real ogre, the post-Enlightenment mindset that’s now ubiquitous.

The first thing the putative Age of Reason did was destroy reason and hence any sensible notion of reality. Madness descended, and we shouldn’t be surprised that it now speaks with the Scottish accent.

After all, the Church of England, speaking with the perfect received pronunciation, has just informed teachers at its schools that, if they say it’s impossible to change sex, they are breaking the law. And the prelates don’t mean the law laid down in Genesis and Matthew.

4 thoughts on “What’s in a word?”

  1. One would expect Mr. Yousaf to eventually add to the list of hate crimes those of being Christian, Jewish, or even atheist.

    Hardly surprising for the Church of England to jump on board. She has long since stopped being a faith of the book in favor of being a faith of the zeitgeist. She certainly lives up to her name, Church of England, as opposed to a Church of God.

    These transvestite pronoun lunatics are decades behind the curve in feigning offense at certain words. Back in 1997 NHL player Chris Simon, himself an American Indian, was suspended for three games for yelling a racial slur at a black player. My (immature) friends and I took no end of delight in stringing together long lists of expletives that were okay to use (such as your “f***ing c***”, above) without resorting to “black” or “injun” or other such untouchables. What I cannot understand about this pronoun B.S. is that one does not use a pronoun in the person’s presence. In conversation with you I might call you “Alex” or “you”, but I would not call you “he”. What this comes down to is these people are trying to control our speech even when they are not privy to the conversation. “Watch how you refer to me when I’m not around!” I opt out.

  2. That concept of freedom of speech is an American ideal that has been exported to various places of the world but only with limited success. Absoluteness of the notion from the American perspective not seen as rational [?] by most of the rest of the world.

    1. Oh yes! And you may go teach your grandmother to suck eggs.

      Where, I wonder, did the Americans get that bonny idea from?

  3. Arabic (a beautiful language with which Mr Yousaf may just possibly be familiar) distinguishes between masculine and feminine gender in pronouns and verb-forms of the second person as well as of the third, both singular and plural. Therefore, Arabic-speakers in Scotland had better make sure they read the labels people wear before deciding which form of “you” to use, or they might be locked up.

    I’m only joking, of course. This legislation is aimed at the suppression neither of Arabic-speakers nor of the tiresome Miss Rowling (who hasn’t been arrested). It’s aimed, as you adumbrate, at the suppression of old, sane, Christian certitudes in favour of new, insane, anti-Christian certitudes, with relativism, multiculturalism and multigenderism as mere watering-holes on the long march. And the legislation will be enforced by Police Scotland, an organisation with which the corrupt SNP tyrants have replaced the old Scottish constabularies because the old Scottish constabularies weren’t under direct political control.

    My advice to my fellow Scots who don’t fancy living under tyranny is to leave, as I did.

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