Ed West

‘Community leader’, ‘call out’, ‘dreamer: The worst words and phrases in the English language

'Community leader', 'call out', 'dreamer: The worst words and phrases in the English language
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In this week’s magazine Rod Liddle has a piece on the worst ‘clichés, lies, evasions, obfuscations, PC euphemisms and disingenuous balls words and phrases which, in recent years, have annoyed me the most’. He was inspired by Brook Newmark’s recent shenanigans with a phantom lady and a computer, which were explained as the MP ‘battling his demons’.

Rod also includes vulnerable, community, ‘bravely fighting cancer’, vibrant, diversity and, of course, ‘wrong side of history’.

For a while I’ve been collecting my own worst words and phrases in the ever-evolving English language, a sort of dictionary of political cant that I work on to keep me sane. I suppose you’d call it politically correct English, although I find the phrase tedious and it makes people think about things like ‘baa baa white sheep’ rather than the stuff that matters. In orders words, they think PC is about politeness when mostly it is about control, in this case controlling the language, altering the meaning of words so that it becomes harder to articulate particular viewpoints. That’s the whole point, after all.

So on top of Rod’s list, I would add these:

Apartheid Any system in which some people are excluded in some way, ie absolutely everything – housing apartheid, social apartheid, educational apartheid, gender apartheid, cultural apartheid. Commonly applied to those wacko fringe-extremists who somehow think that a state should distinguish between its own citizens and those of other countries. In particular used about the Israelis, who for some – literally insane – reason would prefer not to be a minority in an Arab-dominated state.

Call out Denounce someone for having crime-thoughts, thus rendering their opinions worthless, whatever the value of their actual arguments. Probably sounded more menacing in the original Russian.

Community leader Self-appointed spokesman for a downtrodden minority whose main solution for their problems is that more money be funnelled to his organisation. Two-thirds of ‘his’ community have probably never heard of him and his views are well to the Right of Nick Griffin, but there you go, he brings great diversity.

Dreamer Illegal immigrant who wants to fulfil the American dream of being a Democrat voter.

Empowering Anything a feminist does that makes her feel good but which reduces her market value in the dating game.

Fairness Tax Redistribution, re-branded to appeal to people with the mindset of a 6-year-old disappointed about his party bag.

Hate crime A violent crime that, because the victim appears to come from a different demographic, suggests it was motivated by hate. As opposed to any other violent crime, which is motivated by love or indifference.

Othered How the middle-class white media treats minorities, allowing conservatives to divide the united peoples of the diversity rainbow by dehumanising and dividing, when the only people who should be dehumanised are conservatives.

Privilege-checking, or check your privilege The great hierarchy of victimhood, a game of Top Trumps in the great schoolyard of political debate.

Sex-positive Any sort of pro-promiscuity argument or lifestyle that annoys social conservatives but doesn’t lead to sexual exploitation, violence, the brutalisation of women, unwanted pregnancy or disease. In a magical world somewhere, perhaps inhabited by sex fairies.

Social cleansing The outrageous idea that the government shouldn’t pay for people to be given accommodation in exclusive areas in the centre of cities while everyone else schleps 50 miles to work every day on overcrowded public transport. Described by the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee as the government’s ‘final solution’ for the poor in a characteristically measured and rational article.

Plus: intersectionality, cis, gendered, distortion of Islam, awareness-raising, trigger-warning and – increasingly – British values.