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Sunday Read: Extremely Inappropriate and Incredibly Unacceptable

For this Sunday, a brief but entertaining rant by Edward Skidelsky, writing against two annoying words that feature in our popular discourse in Prospect Magazine:

No words are more typical of our moral culture than “inappropriate” and “unacceptable.” They seem bland, gentle even, yet they carry the full force of official power. When you hear them, you feel that you are being tied up with little pieces of soft string.

Inappropriate and unacceptable began their modern careers in the 1980s as part of the jargon of political correctness. They have more or less replaced a number of older, more exact terms: coarse, tactless, vulgar, lewd. They encompass most of what would formerly have been called “improper” or “indecent.” An affair between a teacher and a pupil that was once improper is now inappropriate; a once indecent joke is now unacceptable.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    November 22nd, 2009 @08:39 #

    The thoroughly unacceptable nature of whatever had been done to acquire the label of "inappropriate" has always been immediately apparent to me. That word never was bland or gentle, overlayed with implications of character disorder and maladjusted behaviour.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    November 22nd, 2009 @15:09 #

    This piece could have been utter dross (it wasn't) -- the accompanying pic was worth switching on my computer this morning. True confession time: Icanhascheezburger was the first site I logged into upon getting broadband.

    I like the words "improper" and "indecent". Think of Lizzie Bennett crying out to her father (who is questioning whether Darcy can make her happy): "Indeed, he has no improper pride."

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    November 22nd, 2009 @19:22 #

    That pic made my day.


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