Bad language

The strange thing about language, the anniversary of the death of Litvinenko, elections in Australia

One of our star turns on is Victoria Brignell who writes on living life as a 'wheelchair rider' in her regular monthly slot Crip's Column.

This week she turned her wry gaze on the often vexed issue of language. Just how should we talk about disability. It's a useful - if inconclusive - insight into what labels are acceptable. As you would expect, I hope, there isn't unanimity on this issue.

Victoria writes: "I know disabled people who care about terminology passionately and others who aren’t really bothered. But every disabled person will contemplate the appropriateness of descriptions at some point. So what labels do us crips prefer to be stuck on us?"

Click on her pages to find out.

Much else has been turning up on the website. Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economy and Policy Research wrote us a piece in which he tried to redress some of the blatant bias in the reporting of Hugo Chavez and the forthcoming referendum in Venezuela. We'll be returning to this subject very shortly.

We've also been focusing on the Australian elections. Ahead of the game we profiled that country's new prime minister Kevin Rudd a few weeks ago.

Then there was the first anniversary of the death of Alexander Litvinenko, the perilous state of UK house prices (or otherwise), Sian Berry's London mayoral launch plus a look at Lebanese politics and Hezbollah's leader Nasrallah.

All that plus my interview with Sian's rival for mayor, Lib Dem candidate Brian Paddick - the former top Met officer which I'd like to draw special attention to. Oh the power I wield.

Moving back briefly, if I may, to the knotty issue of language. During my lunchbreak I sometimes like to visit the pigeon eating pelicans of St James' Park.

Anyway en route there the other day from Terminal House, I encountered an American family in a tunnel under a busy junction near Victoria Station. Without preamble the mother approached me and said: "Where's the subway?"

I said, given we were in a subway: "Do you mean what we call the Tube or Underground'?" She replied she did and I pointed her in the right direction.

"Is this the subway?" she then asked.

"No," I said patiently, keen to avoid confusion, "this is the underpass."

Anyway I tell you this to demonstrate how confusing language can be because I was watching some TV the other day. Suddenly on my flickering set appeared a bunch of sweaty people who seemed to be dwelling like troglodytes among the jungley tendrils.

One by one these people did a 'piece to camera' and begged to be allowed to remain where they were.

Now, with the exception of Cerys Matthews, whom I eventually identified, they were nothing to celebrate and all insisted they wanted to stay put. Yet I then learned at the commercial break that the programme was called I'm a celebrity get me out of here. Now in this era of dodgy TV shows that can't be right. A more accurate title might be: I'm not a celebrity, leave me where I am. I'm hoping the public will be happy to oblige.

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
New Statesman cover
Show Hide image

The New Statesman Cover | Cool Britannia 20 years on

A first look at this week's magazine.

28 April - 4 May 2017
Cool Britannia 20 years on

0800 7318496