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ANOTHER black day for the PC brigade


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Right-hand man, gentleman's agreement and whiter than white: PC quangos ban common phrases to avoid causing offence



By James Slack, Home Affairs Editor

Last updated at 2:19 AM on 24th August 2009




article-0-0187DC2200000578-406_233x374.jpg Nonsense: Matthew Elliott said 'Most people assumed that this sort of PC madness went out in the 1980s.'


Right-hand man, gentleman's agreement and whiter than white are the latest phrases to fall foul of the political correctness lobby.

Government quangos have issued fresh lists of phrases they are seeking to ban to avoid causing offence.

Staff at the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission have been advised to use 'miserable day' instead of 'black day'. The Commission claims that certain words carry a 'hierarchical valuation of skin colour'.

It also cautions that the term ethnic minority can imply 'something smaller and less important' and should be used with care.

The examples of political correctness emerged in answer to a series of Freedom of Information requests.

Some institutions have urged workers to watch out for gender bias or sexism in language.

The Learning and Skills Council wants staff to 'perfect' their brief rather than 'master' it while Newcastle University reckons 'master bedroom' can be problematic.

The National Gallery in London says the phrase gentleman's agreement may be considered offensive to women and suggests using 'unwritten agreement' or ' agreement based on trust' instead.

The phrase right-hand man is also considered taboo, with 'second in command' thought more suitable. Advice issued by the South West Regional Development Agency says: 'Terms such as black sheep of the family, black looks and black mark have no direct link to skin colour but potentially serve to reinforce a negative view of all things black.

'Equally, certain terms imply a negative image of black by reinforcing the positive aspects of white.

'For example, in the context of being above suspicion, the phrase whiter than white is often used. Purer than pure or cleaner than clean are alternatives which do not infer that anything other than white should be regarded with suspicion.'

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'Most people assumed that this sort of PC madness went out in the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher reined in the Left-wing councils, so it's unbelievable that it's rearing its head again.




'This nonsense proves that quangos need to be culled. They're unaccountable, undemocratic and wasteful.'

Philip Davies, a Tory MP, said: ' We need to take an axe to public spending in order to get the public finances back is shape again.

'It seems to me the leading candidates for the first strike of the axe are the cretins who spend their time doing this sort of garbage. It is a complete waste of time and completely ridiculous.'

Anthony Horowitz, a children's author, said: 'A great deal of our modern language is based on traditions which have now gone but it would be silly - and extremely inconvenient - to replace them all.

'A white collar worker, for example, probably doesn't wear one. Spanish practices can happen all over Europe.

'We know what these phrases mean and we can find out from where they were derived. Banning them is just unnecessary.'

Marie Clair, of the Plain English Campaign, said: 'Political correctness has good intentions but things can be taken to an extreme. What is really needed is a bit of common sense.'

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