Austin Mitchell, ‘rapists’ and the death of language

Austin Mitchell, 'rapists' and the death of language
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In further proof that the devil makes work for idle thumbs, Labour MP Austin Mitchell described Pfizer as ‘rapists’ in a tweet. All hell has since broken loose.

All of which leaves Mr S nonplussed. Definitions of the noun ‘rape’ are as follows:

1. the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.

2. any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.

3. statutory rape.

4. an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation.

Mr S is confident that Mitchell was using the word ‘rapists’ in the sense of the fourth definition – an act of plunder, despoliation and violation. After all, even Austin Mitchell is not sufficiently doolally to think that Pfizer will compel the folk at AstraZeneca to have sexual intercourse, perhaps with the coercive aid of Mr Read’s ‘empowerment coin’, as part of the proposed corporate takeover.

However, Mr S censures the oaf Mitchell for using a saloon bar cliché like ‘rapists’ rather than the beautifully brutal alternative ‘despoilers’ – ie, those who strip value or possessions.

Still, Mr S is rather shaken that British society apparently takes offence at words rather than the context in which they are used. English would be less rich if dictionaries were to amend their entry for ‘rape’ by inserting the word ‘archaic’ before the fourth definition.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from London and beyond. Email tips to

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