The changing face of ‘values’

‘Don’t they know what prolific means?’ asked my husband, looking up in a bad-tempered way from a headline on the BBC website: ‘Lucy Letby: Investigating the UK’s most prolific child killer.’ Sky News, the Mail, Reuters and the CheshireLive website used the phrase too. Prolific comes from the Latin prolificus, meaning ‘producing or capable of producing offspring’. It can be used figuratively to mean ‘abundantly creative’ or just ‘productive’. A poet might deliberately use the phrase prolific child killer as a harsh oxymoron. For a journalist to use it in such a context is deplorable. A word far less easy to pin down is now widely used as a weapon: