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?