What are we allowed to say?

Often, people like to complain they no longer know which words they are allowed to say anymore. They present these forbidden words as some great calamity, caused solely by over-the-top political correctness single-handedly destroying freedom of speech. As if the words are no longer appropriate for no reason, omitting the unfortunate and exclusionary history distilled into their syllables. Not saying certain words is depicted as some great affront, and as an impossible challenge.

Just this Tuesday (08/12/20), football players on both sides of a UEFA fixture between Paris St-Germain and Istanbul walked off in unison, demonstrating solidarity with assistant coach Pierre Webó, allegedly racially abused by a Fourth Official.

What exactly was said remains slightly uncertain, though Demba Ba was heard remonstrating:

“Why when you mention a black guy, you have to say this black guy”

I found it a genuinely heart-warming moment of solidarity, followed by an outpouring of support on social media. It’s a sign of the slogan ‘Say NO to racism’ taking effect.

Fourth Official Sebastian Coltescu is insisting no malignant intent, arguing he was simply misunderstood. Regardless, his career has been shattered. Facing a potential 10-game ban, he has announced his retirement from officiating, a job proudly listed in his twitter bio as extending from 1996. An account now suspended.

This incident might prove many people right. Seemingly, he only referred to Webó as ‘black’ as a factual identification. But there are other ways to describe a person without invoking race. It’s obviously stigmatised – don’t reduce people to the colour of their skin.

We’re an intelligent species. Suggesting no one is safe to say anything anymore is patently untrue, and it displays a basic lack of understanding. All words have different meanings and connotations and, subsequently, are only appropriate in different contexts. It’s actually not that difficult to remember which should be used.

Rarely do we mistakenly substitute incorrect words, or lapse into gibberish (well, most of us). Rarely do we resort to expletives, unless particularly incensed and, even then, we try to avoid them around children. Fundamentally, it’s really not that hard – there are plenty of ways to avoid upsetting people.

Ultimately, if you really find it impossible to avoid using offensive language, try not talking at all.


Thanks for reading!

I typically post longer reads, but I would appreciate any feedback with regards to length. I post regularly with short stories, travel blogs, and contemporary commentary, so stayed tuned!

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13 thoughts on “What are we allowed to say?

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  1. One addition to this debate (noticed after posting) is yesterday’s dismissal of now-former Chief Inspector Stewart Millar, from Humberside Police, after describing a fellow officer as a ‘choc ice’

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  2. Hello Tom. I really enjoyed this post – it’s scary to think you could get into trouble for saying something that has been interpreted in a way you didn’t mean. I’m afraid as we go on it will get worse. Who knows, but I really enjoyed this post !

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    1. I’m glad you liked it, thanks for stopping by. I suppose this incident does also speak to how difficult it is to redeem yourself in the public eye once an accusation has been made. When discussing certain topics, careful sensitivity does have to be used, but you’re right in that, sometimes, making one mistake seems to leave you with no recourse and damage your life. Thanks again for reading!

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  3. Well.. what can I say.. I’m glad you wrote this post, because it gives people like me an insight into the minds of “the others”. So thank you. I mean it.

    Your tone is pleasant and relatively conciliatory compared with others of your kind.

    I am trying to be on the same side regarding the tone, but I’m pretty much on the opposite end of the scale regarding the matter at hand. I respect that everyone is entitled to their opinion. (I do not respect anyone telling me that I shouldn’t speak, if I do not comply, of course, but that is only natural and would have been anticipated.)

    I think restrictions on the use of many words have gone way too far and reactions of the PC police are completely out of hand.

    I am 100% anti-racists and generally anti-baddies of all sorts, but I think the current trend makes conversations very difficult and harms the cause of fighting racism and other ills of society.

    I am 46 years of age, but in today’s world I often feel like I am the grumpy 80yo who doesn’t understand people anymore and thinks the world has gone crazy.

    In my experience, it is usually never the woke folk who contribute to the fight against the ills of society, but it is people who say s*** and f*** and those who care more about the essence and less about curious connotations in certain contexts. In my view one reason why wokeism is so popular is because it is so much easier to criticise people and to be offended than it is to actually actively contribute to change for the better.

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    1. Others of my kind? I’m sorry you can’t agree, but I appreciate the feedback. No one is saying people can’t speak, only that certain words are insensitive and inappropriate, so should be avoided wherever possible. As long as people are generally respectful, problems can typically be avoided

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