PC language not as black and white an issue as you might think…

NORTHERN Ireland’s Human Rights Commission once again faces ridicule as it issues guidelines to staff on politically-correct language. Instead of “black day”, staff are asked to say “miserable day” to avoid giving possible offence. As if anyone has ever taken this as an insult. The Commission is not saying too much – and refused to hand over its style guide, although I can guarantee it will be in the public domain soon – but a spokesman/woman/person said:

Staff have been advised that certain phrases could carry a hierarchical value. The general advice is consider sensibly how language might be perceived by people and think about how certain phrases could cause offence.

A load of old balls (unless that is causing offence to elderly men). Any dimwit with an ounce of common sense knows how context plays a role in these matters, and usually we’re well aware of when someone deliberately intends to offend another. In Northern Ireland, we’re probably experts. But does avoiding terms like “whiter than white” and “black sheep” really help improve race relations? And isn’t it just a little bit racist for the HRC thought police to assume that people from ethnic minorities aren’t smart enough to understand another culture’s linguistic expressions?

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  • steve48

    and there’s me wondering what them eejits did all day

  • Fionn

    “as if anyone has ever taken this as an insult”.

    You sure you’ve done your homework on this one? I know of quite a few people insulted by this kind of throwaway comment. Changing times means exactly that: change! Including language.

  • abu nicola

    Makes you wanna slip out of hospital on a Wednesday afternoon for a pint in that nice pub across the road.

  • wild turkey

    ‘Makes you wanna slip out of hospital on a Wednesday afternoon for a pint in that nice pub across the road.’

    … and listen to the Black Dyke band on the jukebox.

  • Rory Carr

    I suppose at least that this will put an end to the tyranny of a mother threatening her children by warning them, “If you don’t eat up your greens you can’t have any chocolate orange for pudding.” In NI there’s room for at least three sections of the community to take umbrage at mum’s choice of words.

    A black day indeed for common sense although I can see how use of the term “right-hand man” for a highly valued assistant might cause offence to those who prefer the sinister grip for purposes of solitary self pleasure.

  • ersehole

    The reason people say ‘black day’ is because black is associated with the night, the cold, the winter, the time where you cannot see, the time when you go to bed.

    But because black people sleep all day and stay out all night so it’s probably time to change this phrase.

    I’m glad the HRC are recognizing the different attitudes black people have to getting up for work, and are seeking to reflect this in our language.

    Well Done!

    Now, anyone for The Royal Mauve Preceptory?

  • dunreavynomore

    I was going to go to Armagh tomorrow but that would mean crossing the Black Banks which must be out now.Then I won’t see the Black pig’s Dyke either, which is good, as it must be an even worse slur on somebody. Then what about all those other places with Black in their names meaning sunless, dreary, and so on not to mention all those Irish names using words like Dubh or Duff. Kavanagh’s, Shancoduff, will have to go both for it’s use of black or dark and it’s sexist reference to Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt with the implication that women are too nosey for their own good. There’s a lot of work for somebody. Ezekiel 23.20 will have to go due to it’s scathing references to donkeys and horses.

  • Pigeon Toes

    I often refer to Mr Ptoes as a “miserable bastard”, so does that mean that I really think of him as a (within NI context) “black bastard”?

  • Read the article again. NIHRC issues style guide. Eight instances of politically correct language given. But only one instance is from the NIHRC. Seven are from various organisations in England, presumably lifted from old copies of the Daily Mail.

    Assuming the journalist had managed to get their hands on it, if the style guide beggars belief to such a degree why was it only worth one example?

  • When I described a fairly recent DRD report as a ‘whitewash’ I never thought I might be upsetting some folks down at the HRCNI. Do female left-handers think ‘right-hand man’ has a ‘sinister’ connotation? Geddit?

  • Nevin: the right hand man thing is from the National Gallery in London.

    Actually, when I said that the quotes were lifted from old copies of the Daily Mail I was joking but hark! The whole article is from Monday’s Daily Mail! The only difference is the headline.

    Journalism at it’s best I say.

  • Neil

    Ridiculous. So the word black is only to be used in the context of skin colour is it? Fuck that. In work come Christmas we get the obligatory email telling us to refer to the season as ‘the holidays’ for fear of offending one of the many ethnic minorities here. Have you ever met a Muslim that got angry hearing the word Christmas?

  • blackguard

    What a load of bollocks and here’s me thinking a Black Day was the last saturday in August!

    Can you imagine the contortions of the NIHRC if an applicant for a job decided to describe himself as an Orange and Black man not to mention the relatively unknown purple man!!

    So maybe in deference to the members of the loyal orders – particularly the Royal Black Institution of the British Commonwealth the NIHRC should ban all derogatory references to Black and they might as well carry on and include Orange and the little know Purple!!

    Good luck with that one eejits

  • David

    I studied for a bit at a US law school and noticed that professors talked about the “chalkboard” not the “blackboard”. Sounds quite PC to me.

  • Big Maggie


    But we speak of whiteboards too. They’re the ones you use erasable markers on.

    Where will it all end?

  • Ms Wiz

    A few years back I popped into a filling station on the Malone Rd to buy a paper and overheard the conversation between the tiller and a customer who I presume both knew each other. I was the only one in the shop and during their chat one of them said, “…aye those Black bastards…”.

    I’m from England originally but I knew exactly what they meant, however I felt a bit mischievous so I feigned ignorance and stared at them with indignation as if to say I can’t believe you just said that. They both stopped and realised what they’d said and apologised saying “no no mate I didn’t mean that, it’s what we call the police”. I nodded warily and gave them one of those narrow-eyed benefit-of-the-doubt looks.

    Sometimes people in NI use terminology that’s a little outdated (referring to people as ‘coloured’ for e.g.) and could get them into trouble in other parts of the UK.

    I realise that the colour black historically has negative connotations, but referring to a day as ‘black’ might also give the general impression that black = bad, evil. And seeing as there are many millions of people in the world who would refer to themselves as black then perhaps you can understand the need to update/expunge certain expressions from everyday use.

  • Fionn

    Ms wiz, exactly. But the problem here is folk don’t want to change. Will refuse t change. The same folk take umbrage at all sorts, but when told that another person might have a problem with something; well then it’s “fuck them, that’s stupid”. It’s all me me me in the sad 6, the land that time forgot. Evidenced by the inability to grow the fuck up.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Sometimes people in NI use terminology that’s a little outdated (referring to people as ‘coloured’ for e.g.) and could get them into trouble in other parts of the UK.”

    Aye , because address sing the “outdated” language is the most pressing problem within NI society???