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Birjees Hussain: Much ado about name calling
December 28, 2018
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During a parliamentary Q&A session between British Prime Minister Theresa May and the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, Jeremy was accused of insulting the PM for allegedly calling her ‘stupid woman’. He was seen muttering something under his breath after he had sat down. Cameras zoomed into Jeremy in an effort to read his lips. Anti-Corbynites swear he said ‘stupid woman’ and Twitter erupted with anti-Corbyn tweets about how he was a misogynist. Jeremy supporters, on the other hand, were divided and debated whether he said ‘stupid people’ or ‘stupid person’. I saw the footage over and over again and I am convinced he said ‘stupid people’.

Now you might think it’s calling the leader of Britain ‘stupid’ to which everyone took umbrage. But I’m afraid not. It’s the word ‘woman’ that offended them. Had he said ‘stupid person’ or stupid people’ or ‘stupid…’ with any other word added to it, no one would have batted an eyelid.

The thing is when a man is addressed as a woman, it’s natural that he should find it insulting. But you know what’s weird? Not only do men find the word offensive but women do too, especially when itcould be used in the above context. For example, saying to a women, ‘you, woman!’ is actually insulting, almost implying that being a woman equates to being dumb, ignorant, stupid, etc.

Corbyn was actually accused of misogyny because they thought he said ‘stupid woman’. It is odd and, in my mind, a double standard though. Let’s suppose that the tables were turned and everyone thought May had called Corbyn ‘stupid man’. Would she have been accused of misandry? Probably not, mostly because the word is rarely used in the English language so few people will even know the male equivalent of misogyny even existed.

Another word that has become offensive is ‘girl’ but this time both sexes find the word offensive, regardless of the context in which it is used.

Usually when you insult someone, you tend to use phrases like ‘moron’, ‘idiot’, ‘horse’s a--s’, ‘dumb blond’, ‘jerk’, ‘blond bimbo’, etc.

But in today’s English language, numerous innocent everyday words are now being used as insults. Take the word ‘snowflake’, for example. Whereas at one time it was a compliment, it is now a political insult hurled by conservatives at liberals. It implies that they are whiny little ‘jerks’ who think they are entitled. It is utterly ludicrous since a snowflake is a weather phenomenon.

Another everyday word that has become an insult is ‘dummy’. In normal everyday English it has three innocent meanings. It can be a manikin in a clothes shop. It can also be an item that is used as a substitute for the real thing. And in Britain it is the American equivalent of a pacifier for a crying baby. In the case of the latter whereas one is considered an insult the other is actually a compliment of sorts.

The word ‘tool’ has a few innocent meanings in everyday language. Hammers, anvils, blades, knives, nails, etc. are useful tools if you are into DIY. Various management techniques are also considered tools. For example, you might have various risk assessment tools or root cause analysis tools. You will also find various tool bars in windows and your browsers. These are all useful things in your arsenal. But as an insult, men are often called ’a tool’ if they are thought to be overly egotistical, deluded or behave likes a jerk.

And finally, Robot’s cousin, ‘Bot’ is also now an insult. Technically it’s used to describe an automated response system set up on a social media site. Its function is to automatically follow someone specific and to like their posts or to specific hashtags and like those too. It should be stressed that it’s not a person so any follows or likes are not based on any form of reasoning, emotions or opinions. But they are programmed to respond to people who have specific viewpoints that they wish to widely disperse on social media via these bots. That being said, the word is now frequently used on social media to refer to people with whose views you don’t agree.

I think it’s a real shame that the English language is being tainted in such a brutal way. I dare say that if Henry Higgins were a real character, he’d be turning in his grave by now. I wonder what George Bernard Shaw would think of how the language is being destroyed…

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