Offensive words in politics: Trying very hard to... - Thyroid UK

Thyroid UK

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Offensive words in politics

helvella
helvellaAdministrator

Trying very hard to avoid direct political comment, the following might be recognised by many of you, but it is posted as a general comment:

On Monday night, <a former MP> replied: “What a pathetic cretin.” The tweet drew widespread condemnation, including from <otherwise like-minded> MPs, coming on a day when Theresa May warned MPs not to use violent or offensive language as passions run high.

It is so very difficult to decide whether I am more offended by his use of the word, or by his ignorance which demonstrates he doesn't understand why it is so offensive.

Many of the words used in my youth were deeply unpleasant and offensive but have since been recognised for what they are. This word should also be removed from use as a jibe.

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59 Replies

For people who didn't know, the word "cretin" used to be the official term used for people with congenital hypothyroidism. I have no idea whether doctors still use it in a medical context at all.

helvella
helvellaAdministrator in reply to humanbean

They appear to in Birmingham:

Cretinism

Cretinism is a congenital condition caused by a deficiency of thyroid hormone during foetal development. Cretinism is characterised in childhood by dwarfed stature, mental retardation, dystrophy of the bones and a low basal metabolism.

uhb.nhs.uk/endocrinology-co... (University Hospitals Birmingham)

However they appear often to use the word cretinism as above rather than cretin as applied directly to an individual.

humanbean
humanbean in reply to helvella

I'm shocked that it is still in use since the term is now used pejoratively.

TSH110
TSH110 in reply to humanbean

Oddly it has quite a compassionate derivation:

1770–80; < French; Franco-Provençal creitin, crestin human being, literally, Christian (hence one who has humanity despite deformities)

We were taught at school never to use the term 'dumb' to mean stupid.

I used to teach the seven year olds in my class that if you can’t say anything good about someone or something then don't say anything at all. Also ‘that’s interesting’ is a pretty good neutral comment if you have to say something.

I saw this on twitter, & sometimes it's impossible not to be political. So much malice, & so few morals. I hope he's never voted in again.

Hidden
Hidden

Interesting point, Helvella. It led to a train of thought, as it tends to with me. So I hope nobody finds my comments offensive :-)

"Cretinism" need not be used in a derogatory way. Basically it is a description of a serious medical condition. But, because that condition makes people slow in body and mind, to call someone "A cretin" - meaning slow and stupid - is very offensive.

It can also be offensive to categorise or identify a person by what is wrong with them. A friend of mine, who is also a nurse, had a very difficult birth experience with her youngest child. One of the hospital staff (can't remember if it was a doctor or a nurse) introduced her to a colleague by saying "This is the perineal haematoma". My friend, though in intense pain, and semi aware because of a high does of painkillers, still managed to object, "I'm not a perineal haematoma, I'm a person!!!"

On the other hand, political correctness can be rather extreme at times.

I went to a training session with work once, which was taken by a blind lady. Very interesting, but she said we should never use the term "Handicapped" as it was offensive ("Cap-in-hand"), which had never occurred to me. OK, it may be politer to call someone disabled - though some object to that as well. But to me the most important thing is one's attitude to a person, not the actual words used. When I worked in a psychiatric home there was one patient - a very nice man who suffered with severe schizophrenia. His idea of a friendly greeting was "Hello, you old B..." I hate that word, (the ruder of the two "Bs" but he didn't mean it offensively, so how could one object?

Hidden
Hidden in reply to Hidden

"a very nice man who suffered with severe schizophrenia"

I would never refer to him as "A schizophrenic". In fact, once spoke of him to a colleague as "My pal Brian"!

Likewise, saying that someone "Suffers from cretinism" might be acceptable, but not as "That cretin"

helvella
helvellaAdministrator in reply to Hidden

Wiki - which might or might not be right - has a different etymology for handicapped:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand-...

Hidden
Hidden in reply to helvella

Thanks, very interesting. I still don't really understand why that lady found it offensive.

Hidden
Hidden in reply to helvella

"The use of the term to describe a person with a disability—by extension from handicap racing, a person carrying a heavier burden than normal—appeared in the early 20th century" makes more sense to me.

If true, it is also complimentary rather than offensive. It acknowledges that someone has difficulties that most don't have, but shows respect for them as an individual.

A disabled (or handicapped?) man who used a wheelchair apparently wrote a book called "Does he take sugar?" because of the way people tended to talk to his carer rather than him, even though he was not mentally disabled.

I used to work for the Alzheimer's Society, and even people with dementia are often far more aware than we may realise, and need to feel included in conversation even if (in the later stages) neither understands a word of what the other is saying. Whatever the disability, the aim is to feel accepted and respected.

Sorry, this is a hobby horse of mine, but better shut up, especially as it's rather off topic.

Goodnight all xx :-D

greygoose
greygoose in reply to Hidden

Well, the whole thread is off-topic, really. But, your mention of that book reminded me of an recent incident demonstrating that old people can also be treated like that.

Now, I'm 73, and I suppose I look it. But despite my hypothyroidism, I pride myself I still have all my wits around me. A few weeks ago, I went to a barbeque with my daughter, held by some of her friends. She introduced me to everyone as, Grey, her mother. During the meal, I was sitting with my daughter on one side, and a lady I'll call X on the other. She talked down to me the whole time, asking if the samosa weren't too spicy for poor little me, and could I speak a little French? This after about half an hour's conversation! Then she leaned right across me to speak to my daughter. "How old is your mummy?" she asked, in a soppy voice. The man opposite must have caught the expression on my face, because he started laughing. So, I said to X, "Hey, you could ask me, you know. I'm sitting right next to you!" And the whole table burst into laughter.

I don't know which expletive I would apply to that woman - (probably 'stupid female bovine', I don't think that is politically incorrect, is it?) - but quite a few passed through my mind. And, the worst of it is, she couldn't understand what she'd done wrong!

Hidden
Hidden in reply to greygoose

My mother was I think in her late 70s when she had a cataract operation. She had been to have her eyes checked umpteen times over the 13 years waiting for it to get "Ripe", so she knew the ropes. She was a very clever lady and a voracious reader, though had to leave school early without any qualifications because of having myxoedema (that at least is on topic, lol)! But to look at her (she had a slight head tremor) you might not have realised she was that bright or with it.

After the op she went to the hospital for a check up and the nurse was incredibly condescending. Called her by her first name, and then told her to look at the "Pretty blue light" while checking her eyes - as if she was a small child.

I was furious, though didn't say anything until we got outside! I wanted to write and complain, but my mother saw the funny side and just laughed.

"Pretty blue light" eventually became a catchword and never failed to make us laugh

Hidden
Hidden in reply to Hidden

And now I'm getting on a bit myself I begin to find that younger shop assistants (the nice ones anyway) are starting to narrow their eyes in sympathy if I fumble a bit getting my purse out or something. And of course being hypothyroid doesn't help as it makes you slower in mind, body and speech anyway :-/

greygoose
greygoose in reply to Hidden

Oh, I know! And these Euros I have to deal with are very difficult to read in dim light, which makes it worse. So, I always hand over a note, and don't even try to give the right amount. So, I end up with a purse bulging with 'coppers'! lol

greygoose
greygoose in reply to Hidden

That is awful! How dare that nurse treat a patient like that, even if the patient's intellect was damaged. Everyone should be treated with respect to their face, if not behind their back!

Treepie
Treepie in reply to Hidden

Always thought " wait till they are ripe" was a way of putting folk to the vack of the queue rather than a medical requirment.

Hidden
Hidden in reply to Treepie

Probably not in those days - about 40 years ago. The cataract operating techniques have improved a lot. I think they had to wait till the lens had hardened enough to avoid the risk of losing bits when they tried to remove it.

My grandfather, MUCH longer ago - probably more like 70 years - apparently had his cataracts done by "Needling". They couldn't remove the lens so they used to push a needle through to make a hole in the lens that the patient could see through!!!

humanbean
humanbean in reply to Hidden

OMG I think I'd need to be put into a straitjacket to get that done! Needles and eyes in the same sentence makes me feel sick!

Hidden
Hidden in reply to humanbean

I know!!!

Treepie
Treepie in reply to Hidden

I recall reading about the Dr.who established modern cataract surgery. He was treating injured RAF pilots in WW2 and noted that those who had bits of cockpit plastic in their eyes suffered no infections etc.

Not being an eye surgeon he and a student had to develop the idea of using plastic lenses in secret .We know how medics treat upstarts from other silos.

He was recognised by Norway ( I think) before the UK !

Hidden
Hidden in reply to Treepie

Fascinating, I didn't know that! My mother had the operation not that long before they began to use plastic lenses, but she was amazed at the difference it made "Everything looks so bright and clean"

Treepie
Treepie in reply to Hidden

google Dr .Harold Ridley.Of course cataract surgery long preceded his developments but he made the modern breakthrough.

Treepie
Treepie in reply to Hidden

Yikes! The first one I had done nearly 30 years ago and had a needle used for the anaesthetic and that was painful ,the operation was no problem.20 years on anaesthetic drops were used .Joy .I was out of the hospital in 30 minutes.

Sunny101
Sunny101 in reply to greygoose

Hi GG, would love to have been sitting on that table lol you definitely still have your wits about you, your a star! xx

greygoose
greygoose in reply to Sunny101

Thank you. :D

I’ll be 70 in December and I think if I hear - among other terms that I try to ignore - ‘bless you’, ‘aw, bless’ ‘lovely’, I even got ‘there you are beautiful’ the other day can you believe it - anyway next sales assistant who says it, I swear Ill be like the old granny in the Giles cartoons and deck whoever says it.

I don’t live in an area where that sort of thing is normal everyday language and I know it’s probably very petty but it drives me mad and to be honest it’s something that has always irritated me even when I was young and witnessed it happening to other older people.

Same with doctors etc in hospitals etc using my Christian name. Just stick with Mrs X and keep to the appointment times and we will get on fine.

Gosh, whinging already and it’s barely 9.00am!

Yes, I know what you mean. I had to stop buying my bread in the boulangerie just opposite me, because the woman in there insisted on calling me 'young lady', rather than 'madam'! It was just so insulting, as if I was too senile to know I was old. And as for people that insist on calling me 'mamie' (grandma), they're lucky to still be alive. Why do people think this is alright? They even seem to believe they're being nice to you. Well, my only consolation is that, one day, they're going to find out just how 'nice' it is!

It might be that mamie is an honorific to them, like auntie in China. I'm going to deck the next kid who refers to me as an "auld wifie", though.

Ohhh! I've never heard that before - 'auld wifie'. Sorry, but that's funny - although I wouldn't want to be called that myself!

No, mamie is not an honorific term. It just means 'you're so old and insignificant I can't be bothered to remember your name'!

In hospital, the rules say that nursing staff are forbidden to call their elderly patients 'mamie', but it doesn't stop some of them! I just reply 'I am not your grandmother - thank god!' :(

Hidden
Hidden in reply to Fruitandnutcase

"I swear Ill be like the old granny in the Giles cartoons and deck whoever says it"

LOLOLOL, or even ROFL. Why don't they have a list of smileys we can use on here!

Go for it, handbag them!!!!

Hidden
Hidden in reply to Fruitandnutcase

Coo, I'm just a few months older than you.

Remember when we were kids, you could pull rank if you were older than someone else? I still remember how cross I was when a patronising little girl who had attained the superior age of six years said to me "You're five aren't you?" I said indignantly, "No I'm not, I'm five and three quarters!"

And now we get patronised by YOUNGER people instead!!!!

DippyDame
DippyDame in reply to greygoose

I'm also 73 and don't do "old"...iffy health yes but I see "old" as a state of mind!

Someday, after encounters with a few feisty women with life experience, the insufferable X will maybe understand!

A student friend of mine back in the dark ages used to continually mutter, "Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt"....pity for X that she removed all doubt!

Rock on Grey!!

DD....gone right off- topic!

greygoose
greygoose in reply to DippyDame

Will do, DD! :D

Hidden
Hidden in reply to greygoose

I would have loved to take her aside and explain in words of one syllable why she was acting like a stupid, ignorant - what GG said!

greygoose
greygoose in reply to Hidden

lol I wish someone had!

TSH110
TSH110 in reply to helvella

That bombastic historian who is obsessed with Queen Liz1 -Starkey (that took some digging) - has a problem with his leg and likes to use the word cripple. He thinks it is a good old fashioned word that does an excellent job and it’s his leg 😳 he has got into trouble with some un pc stuff he came out with about urban patoire. He does do a brilliant job of his historical programmes very gripping.

A bipolar pal of mine likes to be called a nut 😳

Whether they prefer those terms or not most people would never dream of using either me included.

The use of cretin as abuse has always been on the nasty side even when I was a kid many moons ago and ought to be unacceptable except as a medical descriptor in the appropriate context. Most certainly not coming out of an MP’s mouth - very disrespectful

Treepie
Treepie in reply to TSH110

Seems we are voting in a load of uncouth folk given the comments reported re the PM by her own party members. Regardless that I think ,like them ,that she is determinedly making a hash of the negotiations, it is no way to talk about your leader.Probably helped her gain sympathy unlike the intentions of these ignorant MPs.

Hidden
Hidden in reply to Treepie

"Regardless that I think ,like them ,that she is determinedly making a hash of the negotiations, it is no way to talk about your leader"

Agree 100%. Remember she was originally a Remainer. But that is no excuse to call anyone names

My mate with spina bifida used to refer to himself as Reg the Veg. I'm not big on political correctness.

Was that said this Monday night? It’s maybe deja vue but I thought it wasn’t all that long ago someone was in trouble for using that same term. It is so offensive, I mean don’t these people actually know what the term means. Hopefully someone will spell out them why this is so offensive! Imagine people like that running the country.

helvella
helvellaAdministrator in reply to Fruitandnutcase

Very recent!

You don't have to imagine people like that running the country - he was an MP.

Sadly you’re right - Think what I really meant ‘can you believe’ rather than ‘imagine’.

Hidden
Hidden

I could be offended most days by what people say, buy I choose not to be

DippyDame
DippyDame in reply to Hidden

It's more a case of how it affects other people than of how it affects me....can't stand seeing people being patronised or treated unjustly.

I can still stand up for myself.....many cannot!

Hidden
Hidden

I'm offended by his use of the word. He will know full well that it's offensive. In the unlikely event that he doesn't, he should never have been in politics.

Some words become very gradually unacceptable as political correctness has slowly edged them out of use. I suppose I'm more aware of this issue because of my former job where we were always among the first to recognise non pc words. My husband looked at me in amazement a few days ago when I told him that you can't call anyone 'a Jew' now - they are Jewish. I could go on ......

However - everone knows hat the word 'cretin', like Mongol, is absolutely off limits.

A disgraceful remark, intended to offend.

MaisieGray
MaisieGray in reply to Hidden

A Mongol is a member of an East-Central Asian ethnic group native to Mongolia and some parts of China & Russia. Modern-day Mongols are referred to as Proto-Mongols. So does their right to be recognised as Mongols trump the right of Europeans many many miles away to be offended by the nomenclature, and stamp it out of existence?

"We were always the first to recognise non-PC words" is a telling and chilling phrase that makes my blood run cold.

Hidden
Hidden in reply to MaisieGray

We had to recognise non PC words or we got the sack!!

Wow, what a load of old/young/middle-aged moaners - hopefully I said that in sufficiently an inclusive way as to not leave any one out, not misrepresent anyone and drive their blood pressure even higher, whilst nevertheless ensuring my own frustration with this thread is shared equally across you all. Looks like lots of wrong sides of beds were got out of this morning.

Returning to the original post; my starting point in response, is that language is a means of communication, and whilst it has rules of construction, is nevertheless much more free form in application. So what is acceptable or not, may vary a great deal from person to person, age range to age range, life experience, situations ...... The problem is, as with everything humans get their hands on, that what started out as a valid and laudable desire to not treat any person less fairly than another, has turned into a societal malaise whereby anyone can be "triggered" by the most innocent or innocuous - or even imaginary - thing; such that real hurt is actually lost in the melee whilst the language police get on with their locking down of anything that they themselves don't like or take offence by. When I was expecting my second child shortly after my diagnosis, concerns were expressed that as I had not been optimally medicated there was a risk my child might be born a cretin. I didn't take offence to that as at the time cretinism was the label given to a recognised inborn condition and it needed no more explanation than that. In fact, it was far better than a softer, less direct term because we could all cut to the chase and do what we needed to do. But I can almost hear all the sharp intakes of breath about such a word being used to a pregnant woman. There are now much more acceptable and accurate terms for cretinism, most probably there's a multiplicity of them in every shade of grey; and the term cretin is obviously now more used to express frustration at the idiocy of another person rather than have any real connection to a genetic disorder, and it needs to be taken as such. If I call someone a fool am I expressing frustration at their behaviour or accusing them of being a court jester? Was it sensible or appropriate for that politician, whoever they were, to use that terms in that situation , clearly not - not least because one criterion that defines a professional is the use of a professional lexicon & phraseology. However, does it warrant a thread in a thyroid forum? To my mind, no. I'm with Stephen Fry when he said “It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so f**cking what." (The asterisks are mine, to avoid offending even more sensibilities).

Yeah, we are all Maggie's "moaning minnies".

Hidden
Hidden in reply to MaisieGray

That’s what happens when people bring politics into a health forum. I’m surprised it’s not against the T&Cs

MaisieGray
MaisieGray in reply to Hidden

Agree, although for myself, I'm not so much concerned that the phrase was expressed by a politician, as it would no doubt incur the wrath of those excessively bothered by such things even had it been said by one of the Kardashians or some such. What concerns me more is the exponential growth in societal "snowflake, safe-place, my rights to be offended trump your rights to free speech, as do my rights to be vicariously offended on the part of others I deem to be in urgent need of my highly attuned I'm Being Offended radar" way of thinking.

Hidden
Hidden in reply to MaisieGray

That last sentence is far too long. It requires more punctuation in order to be accessible to less able readers.

There we go - free speech and political correctness in one concise paragraph :)

bantam12
bantam12 in reply to Hidden

It is, rule 29 in the Guidelines 🤔

Hidden
Hidden in reply to bantam12

It's not really 'political' to discuss what offends and what doesn't. The fact that it was an ex politician isn't such a big deal. It could have been David Beckham or The Duchess of York. Helvella's point is, I think, rooted in the unacceptability of such words in public fora.

I don't like patronising people who think they need to explain to me where Mongolia is and the nomenclature of its inhabitants but it won't offend me. I'm a big girl:)

Well, we've had a right good debate and I'm now going to p*ss off and make myself a nice cup of tea while you silly b**tards carry on chewing the cud :)

bantam12
bantam12 in reply to Hidden

My reply was to Gordon37 about T&Cs, I don't give a toss about any of it 😜

Hidden
Hidden

:) Don't be like that Bantam. You know you like a good chin wag as we say in these parts.

bantam12
bantam12 in reply to Hidden

I'm happy to chin wag, depending on the subject 😉🙃

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