Sticks and stones are preferable

Nicola Adam, Group Editor
Nicola Adam, Group Editor

It’s a war on words that has seen no let up as the social media-led trend for feeling offended escalates to epic proportions.

No sentence is safe as the politically correct revolution sweeps through our newsfeeds, making every day conversation a minefield if you don’t want to rock any boats because you’re quite nice.

Here, in journalism, our traditional media clichés are under threat (not a bad thing) as we battle to report the news without upsetting anyone.

Reporters who have been filing inspiring community stories on ‘battling tots’, ‘dementia sufferers’ and ‘blushing brides’ for years have found themselves bereft as critics swoop, rightly or wrongly, on the language of the profession.

It is harder for those with a few years under the belt to shake off words and phrases used for decades.

This is the natural evolution of language but now any blunder will see you shot down on multiple platforms and branded sexist or worse.

Words are so much more than face value and even the most inclusive adults can misuse one without realising the full implications.

Language is becoming increasingly divisive and offensive, with that around gender a particularly tough road to navigate.

Even ‘male’ and ‘female’ as concepts are under fire.

This week one school announced plans to allow boys to wear skirts if they wanted, while businesses are increasingly under pressure to provide unisex bathrooms.

The messages are head-achingly mixed.

For example women are encouraged to be bold, empowered, and celebrate their sex as feminists while the very notion of female as different is under debate.

As Alanis Morissette once said, ‘It’s complicated.”

But as we try to work all of that out in our heads, we need to tread carefully.

Well-used, generally jovial, rebukes including ’man-up’, ‘girl’ and descriptions like disabled and blind, have fallen victim - though victim is also a no-no.

The proverb ‘Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words..’ has never been more inaccurate.