Public busybodies delight in the depletion of our vocabulary and the policing of our thoughts. ‘It impoverishes us all’.


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Over a million tickets are on sale for nearly forty events attracting groups from over thirty countries speaking nearly fifty languages.

No, not the Olympics – but the World Shakespeare Festival.

But it’s ironical that we should be celebrating the work of a writer singlehandedly responsible for expanding the English language immeasurably at a time when public busybodies are doing their level best to contract it.

“Dad’ appears to be the latest word to fall foul of the vocabulary police now that the NHS has decided to remove it from pregnancy handbooks for fear of upsetting gay and lesbian parents. “Mum”, presumably, too.

This, you may remember, follows a recent suggestion by Liverpool City Council that the word “obese” be banned from any literature promoting healthy eating among children. The word “obesity”, it was claimed, stigmatised those of the salad-dodging persuasion, potentially damaging them for life.

In place of the word “obesity” the Council considered adopting the phrase “unhealthy weight” whose neutral connotations, it was thought, would offend no one’s sensitivities - least of all, of course, the very people whose sensitivities need challenging if they’re to be persuaded to go on a diet.

And now we can’t even call them “fat” for to do so, MPs are suggesting, could be construed as a hate crime under current equalities legislation.

At this point I’d better declare an interest since shedding blubber has been a constant (and sadly fruitless) preoccupation of mine for many years now. But if anyone called me fat - as opposed to tubby, stout, overweight, or well-upholstered - I hope I’d be ...erm...big enough to take it on the chin. Or one of them at any rate.

But I digress. Other words - “husband” and “wife” for example - could shortly be pruned from our lexicon once same-sex marriage is up and running. No matter that the old English ring to both words is preferable to the new-fangled blandness of “partner”.

No matter that some men in fact do have “wives” and some women do have “husbands”.

There are some words that in any decent and inclusive society are rightly taboo. But, your honour, I would humbly contend that “husband”, “wife”, “dad”, “mum”, “obese”, and even “fat” are not among them.

Who knows what Shakespeare would have made of this depletion of our vocabulary and policing of our thoughts. Doubtless he’d have come up with a word for it - but not before some committee of public propriety had vetted it for correctness and, in the process, impoverished us all.

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