“He has resigned for using unacceptable language” is a phrase that we often hear nowadays. Greg Clarke, the Chairman of the Football Association was recently retired from public life for opposing racial discrimination, whilst accidentally using a word which he hadn’t realised was now ‘unacceptably racist’.

Many older people (now defined as anyone over the age of 30) find it hard to keep up with what is and is not ‘approved’ language. People are tripping over their words as they talk. Do you know how to avoid the changing verbal tripwires? If you don’t, you could accidentally tigger the ‘unacceptable language’ landmine and find yourself hurled into the memory hole of oblivion.

Test yourself. You need to get 10 out of 10 right to survive.

1.     What is BAME?

a)     Black Asian and Minority Ethnic

b)    Black Although Mixed-race Excluded

c)    Bad Analysis Masquerading as Ethical

2.     Why was the term BAME invented?

a)     Statisticians decided to count non-white people for ‘management purposes’

b)    Categorising wealthy Indian doctors together with poor black kids from deprived areas helps with good policy making

c)     Black people asked for everyone that was ‘non-white’ to be on their team

d)    Political activists needed a new group to represent – the working-class had become a disappointment and needed replacing

For a bonus point. Is America’s oldest Civil Rights organisation, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, racist?

Yes / No

3.     What does LGBTQI stand for?

a)     Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transexual, Queer, Intersex

b)    Lusty, Game, Bi-polar, Transformer, Queeny, Indeterminate

c)    Likeable Gary Bangs Titillating Queen Indiscriminately

d)     Lesbians Going By The Quaint Idiom

4.     What is a ‘woman’?

a)     An adult female person

b)    Someone who identifies as non-male

c)    What’s left of Suzanne Moore

5.     If you make a verbal mistake, what is the appropriate response?

a)     Say sorry. And mean it.

b)    Try to explain the reason for any misunderstanding

c)     Stand down from your job, offer it to your accuser and thank them for identifying your bigotry

d)    Don’t make a mistake, keep your mouth shut

6.     Which of these phrases is most hateful?

a)     ‘Scuse me love, would you like my seat?

b)    Where do you come from? (unless followed by ‘Did you come by car?’)

c)    ‘Mummy, is that a man in a dress?’

d)    I don’t care what you actually mean, you have hurt the feelings of the people I claim to represent. Bigot, you’re fired!

7.     Who decides whether or not your language is ‘unacceptable’?

a)     The person you’re talking to

b)    Your mum

c)     Your local Director of Inclusion and Diversity

d)    A couple of hundred people on Twitter

8.  Why is it important that we constantly change the language?

a)     Older people can’t keep up, so it keeps them quiet

b)    It provides a career path for those who invent new words

c)     It helps us to spot people who are not ‘one of us’

d)    It stops the danger of spontaneous conversation

9.  What does ‘silence is violence’ mean?

a)     Not speaking out against racism means that you are responsible for racist violence elsewhere

b)    Keeping your mouth shut means that you are harbouring bigoted thoughts

c)     You must speak up to denounce friends and colleagues who talk inappropriately

d)    Actually, right now, silence provides some peace

10.  What is the correct way to describe a white male?

a)     A white bloke

b)      Privileged

c)     Gammon

d)    Oh, please stop this, I’m bored now

Hopefully, you have passed the test.

In the olden days, we understood what someone was saying by listening to what they said, their facial expression, in the context of knowing who they are and their likely intention. If we weren’t sure what they meant, we would ask for clarification. Nowadays, conversations are scanned for trigger words. When discovered, the alarm will be raised.

Stay safe. If it doubt, stay silent.

© Andy Shaw, 20th November 2020

Take the unacceptable language test. You need 10 out of 10 to survive cancellation