Mispronouncing names isn’t a ‘microaggression’

People can make a bewildering number of offensive transgressions these days: from using the wrong pronoun when addressing people to saying that only a woman has a cervix. The latest eggshell to avoid now is mispronouncing people’s names. #MyNameIs is a new initiative calling on people to add phonetic spellings to their email signatures. Race Equality Matters (REM), which launched the campaign, says that mispronouncing names can be ‘considered a microaggression’ and sends out a message that ‘you are minimal’. A survey conducted by REM found that 71 per cent of respondents said their names had been mispronounced, leading some to feel ‘disrespected’ or that ‘they didn’t belong’. Of course, having a name

Why Pontins thinks I’m an ‘undesirable guest’

Oh curses, one less option for the summer holidays. Pontins, the holiday camp for those who don’t mind bringing their own cleaning products, has been exposed for issuing a list of surnames belonging to ‘undesirable guests’. Under the legend ‘You Shall Not Pass’ on the company intranet was an instruction: ‘Please be aware that several guests are not welcome at Pontins, however some of these will still try and book… We have been informed by our Operations Director that we do not want these guests on our parks. Please watch out for the following names on ANY bookings.’ There follows a list of 40. There are the O’Briens, the O’Donnells

Letters: Immunity passports are nothing to fear

Nothing to fear Sir: Many of us await the day when we can travel abroad for much-anticipated holidays — but surely there is a distinction between immunisation passports and Tony Blair-type IDs (‘Papers, please’, 13 February)? If a country requires you to be immunised to travel there in order to protect its citizens against Covid, then I would be happy to have that ‘passport’ requirement. It is quite different from carrying ID with you in your own country. Let’s face it, the danger from Covid will fade in time, and the ‘passport’ requirement along with it. After all we happily travel with a passport in our pockets to show who

The rudeness of calling Jane Austen by her surname

I agree with Charles Moore (The Spectator, 6 February) that it is a shame the Times is dropping its use of titles of courtesy — Mrs, Mr, Lord — at the second mention of anyone in a report. Now it’s Charles Moore first mention, and Moore after that. Even when I see Jane Austen referred to as ‘Austen’ I feel it a little rude. It makes her sound like a convict, or at best the cook below stairs in some historical drama. ‘Austen, there will be 14 to dinner and please ensure the duck is thoroughly done.’ This is partly a question of sex. I wouldn’t like to be called

Charles Moore

Where would politics be without fighting talk?

‘Tencent Wykeham’ has a ring to it. It captures how easily British universities can be bought. It is the new name for what was until now the Wykeham Professorship of Physics at New College, Oxford, now acquired by the huge Chinese techno-conglomerate Tencent for £700,000. William of Wykeham founded New College and Winchester in the 14th century. ‘Tencent Winchester’ next? The problem, which Oxford seems to ignore, is that Tencent acts for the national security interests of the Chinese Communist party. It propagandises too: for Xi Jinping’s address to the 19th Party Congress in 2017, it brought out a mobile game called ‘Clap for Xi Jinping: An Awesome Speech’. Our

Lockdowns can destroy the lives they’re intended to protect

Some Leavers are perturbed that Lord Frost was suddenly stood down as the next National Security Adviser. This anxiety may be misplaced. If he gets the necessary authority in No. 10, his new job of making our European policy fit with our entire foreign policy and making both serve a sovereign nation will be just what is needed. More discouraging, though, is his replacement choice at the NSC. Sir Stephen Lovegrove comes from the Ministry of Defence but is more renowned for tweeting the hashtag of Black Lives Matter and getting generals into rainbow lanyards than for helping the armed services adjust to war in the information age. His appointment

Letters: Solidarity is the best thing for Scotland

SNP sophistry Sir: Andrew Wilson (‘Scot free’, 21 November) poses the question: ‘What if the case for independence was a highly sophisticated position?’ If only. For the SNP position is one of sophistry rather than sophistication. Wilson states that Scottish voters want Scotland to return to Europe. He also states that an independent Scotland would retain sterling, but does not mention the two policies are incompatible. It would be impossible for an independent Scotland to join the EU using sterling. Wilson declares that staying in the Union is riskier than independence, but we should all reflect on the words of Ronald MacDonald, Adam Smith Professor of Economics at Glasgow University,

First names are for friends and family, not bosses and builders

Recently I was listening to Lieutenant-General Tyrone Urch, the army’s Commander Home Command, being interviewed by Martha Kearney on Today. I cannot remember what he was talking about, because I had become quite agitated by the officer’s insistence on using Ms Kearney’s name in every response: ‘Good morning, Martha… It absolutely is, Martha… The things the military is able to do, Martha… I’m no biochemist, Martha…’ On and on it went, this patronising and repeated use of the interviewer’s name. But what rankled more than the repetition was that Lieutenant-General Urch was using Ms Kearney’s first name. Did Ms Kearney tell Lieutenant-General Urch that it was all right for him

The populist revolution has only just begun

Why aren’t children called Roger any more? I wondered this when reading about the sad death of Sir Roger Bannister. Coincidentally, the evening before, my young daughter had been watching The Great Escape and most of the Englishmen in it seemed to be called Roger. The only time you hear the name is in early episodes of Midsomer Murders, the ones produced before they were forced to have black people being killed in a ludicrous fashion alongside the whites, to demonstrate our commitment to equality. It does have an awkward connotation with sex — but then it always did, Roger having been a slang word for penis right back to

Dear Mary | 9 March 2017

Q. Most of my friends have small children and being mostly media types in west London, have given them silly names: Zedechiah, Tiger etc. I’m used to that. What is driving me up the wall is that some of them have begun to use the definite article before referring to their offspring. As in: ‘I’ll bring The Zed to tea, shall I?’ Or ‘I’m taking The Wolf to swimming.’ What irritates me is the implication that we’re all expected to join in with the parents’ (understandable) assumption that their child is special and unique. I see that my irritation is mean-spirited, Mary, and I know that to mention it straight

British placenames

British placenames are so good you can read the map for entertainment rather than navigation. Hardington Mande-ville, Bradford Peverell, Carlton Scroop — they sound like characters in a novel. In fact, P.G. Wodehouse often raided the atlas when writing: Lord Emsworth is named after a town in Hampshire, while a village in the same county gave Reginald Shipton–Bellinger his surname. There’s plenty of silliness out there — Great Snoring in Norfolk, Matching Tye in Essex, Fryup in Yorkshire. Some good old-fashioned smut, too: Lusty Glaze, Pant, Bell End and a couple of Twatts. Kent boasts a Thong — and it’s only a mile or so from Shorne. But enough of


‘Look, darling, a spelling mistake,’ said my husband, looking out of the window, as he had been for minutes, like a lonely old woman. Sure enough, a van was parked in the street with a word painted on the side: Carillion. Now, an unpleasant collection of bells hit automatically by hammers is called a carillon. Carillon can be pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, with or without a Frenchified middle consonant. Or it can be pronounced to rhyme with ‘a million’, which is perhaps where people get the idea that it contains more than one i. As a trade name, you might think it perpetuates some founding father.

Letters | 12 January 2017

Freudian slap Sir: In his Notes (7 January), Charles Moore explores the uncharacteristic reaction of Matthew Parris to the referendum result. What is most puzzling about Parris and so many others like him is that their present outrage has so little in common with their rather tepid support for the EU in the run-up to the vote. Such a mismatch of cause and effect suggests a Freudian explanation may be appropriate. When an impulse is felt to be so dire that it cannot be expressed, a new object is substituted and the feelings are thus ventilated. Yet what original threat could be so catastrophic as to provoke such end-of-our-world hysteria

Letters | 24 November 2016

Prisons and the public Sir: Your leading article on the sorry state of our prisons (19 November) was very welcome. However, you refer to the ‘public demand’ for sending offenders to prison. I have to query this. I cannot think of any occasion when the public has been consulted on prisons or sentencing policy or on the exceptionally high cost of incarceration. We currently have an unthinking and punitive culture, generated by tabloid newspapers and politicians competing to show how tough they are. It is hardly surprising that the coalition government’s search for savings targeted prison staff and community supervision, with results that can be seen today. Peter Barker (former

Letters | 10 November 2016

A downbeat Brexiteer Sir: Alexander Chancellor (Long Life, 22 October) wondered why Brexiteers were not more upbeat about their victory. I suspect many, like me, were worried about Remainers trying anything they can to overturn the vote. The news that the judges have ruled that Brexit cannot be triggered without a parliamentary vote shows how sadly right we are to be downbeat. Marion Gurr Pury End, Northants Shakespeare’s ‘nothing’ Sir: Charles Moore comments upon the difficulty of selecting just one word to sum up Shakespeare’s poetry. Like Cordelia, I would suggest ‘nothing’. The word occurs 654 times in his works, with greater frequency in the great plays, and provides the

Letters | 3 November 2016

An MP’s first duty Sir: Toby Young writes (Status anxiety, 29 October) that Zac Goldsmith’s decision to campaign for Leave in the referendum was an example of his integrity, because ‘anything else would have been a betrayal of his long-standing Eurosceptism as well as his father’s memory’. Goldsmith’s loyalty should have been to his constituents, not his deceased father. Ian Payn London SW6 Standing or sitting Sir: Can I suggest that a sitting MP who resigns their seat in the middle of a Parliament is prohibited from standing in the subsequent by-election? As a taxpayer, I resent having to pay the bill for multimillionaire Zac Goldsmith’s self-indulgent posturing. Dr Louis Savage Cheltenham,

If it’s forbidden to call a baby Cyanide, should Chardonnay be allowed?

According to a recent law report in the Times, the Court of Appeal has just forbidden a mother to name her daughter Cyanide. The child was born to a schizophrenic woman, as the result of a rape. The girl is in local authority care. The mother’s lawyers argued that it is a statutory duty to register a child with a name and that the law has no provision to refuse offensive names. But Lady Justice King (itself a striking, though not offensive name) found that the choice of name was an act of ‘parental responsibility’. Because of the care order, this responsibility had devolved upon the local authority, which did

The Spectator’s Notes | 2 June 2016

‘No one can seriously deny that European integration brought an end to Franco-German conflict and has settled the German question for good,’ wrote Niall Ferguson in the latest Sunday Times. I hesitate when confronted by such an assertion by such a learned professor. But I think I would seriously deny it, or at least seriously question it. Surely what brought an end to Franco-German conflict was the utter defeat of Nazi Germany. European integration was a symptom of that end, not its cause. As for settling the German question, isn’t it too early to say? The eurozone is the first large non-German area to have been dominated by Germany since

The game of the name

You have to pity the Welsh woman who was last week prevented by the Court of Appeal from naming her daughter ‘Cyanide’. An unusual choice, admittedly. And the mother’s defence — Cyanide is a ‘lovely, pretty name’ because it was the drug Hitler used to kill himself ‘and I consider that this was a good thing’ — didn’t help. But given some of the names being foisted on kids these days, Cyanide almost seems sensible. Naming your child was once simple: you picked from the same handful of options everyone else used. But modern parents want exclusivity. And so boys are called Rollo, Emilio, Rafferty and Grey. Their sisters answer

Wear The Fox Hat looks innocent enough but try saying it in an Irish accent

President Lyndon B. Johnson’s image never quite recovered in many people’s view from the photograph of him picking up his two beagles by their ears. Personally, I was nearly as affronted by the names he had given the two dogs: Him and Her. A dog is entitled to a good name, and so, for me, is a horse. The Tennessee novelist John Trotwood Moore once noted, ‘Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilisation we will find the hoofprint of the horse beside it,’ and while that may be going it a bit in the age of the drone and the mobile phone, racehorses