Choosing our words carefully: On Spurs, ‘Eskimo’ and Scrooge

Editor André Langlois. Picture: Archant

Editor André Langlois. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Where’s the harm in being considerate with what we say?

I was on a Zoom call with old friends and we got onto the subject of the use of the word “Eskimo”, which has been dropped by many.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to “political-correctness-gone-mad” the heck out of this column. As far as I can tell, dropping “Eskimo” will have no detrimental impact on my life, let alone one that outweighs the feelings of those who believe it is derogatory.

Closer to home - and let me apologise to any who take offence to this - I’m a Tottenham Hotspur fan. Spurs have a unique issue in that a nickname chanted by fans is “Yid Army”. To some the term is offensive but some argue it is abuse “reclaimed” by fans who are not intending to be antisemitic.

For me, I ask: “What harm would it do to drop the term?”

The club’s heritage would remain. I’d still have memories of Glenn Hoddle’s guile, Gazza’s childlike joy on the ball and Gareth Bale’s unstoppable power. There are other songs and chants (“Cooome ooon youuu Spuuurs”). And dropping it avoids adding to a backdrop of antisemitism.

But people view the changing of culture and heritage in different ways - see the different reactions to the removal of statues.

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By the way, Boris, statues aren’t put up to educate, they’re put up to celebrate. Schools are there to educate, but the history curriculum is found wanting.

Another issue to come across my desk this week was “antisemitism” in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. A banner depicting Scrooge was used at a demonstration and the GMB union has now apologised for offence caused because it “played into an antisemitic trope”.

I wasn’t previously aware of this as an issue, but then Dickens does have form.

The question of how we treat our heritage is far from straight forward, but we shouldn’t shy away from reevaluating it.

I’d be fascinated to hear what Ham&High readers think.