Friday, February 16, 2007

Cameron gets down to the ‘nitty gritty’

It stuck out like a sore thumb. Interviewed by the BBC's Today presenter John Humphrys [16 February] on his policies to bring about a renewal of British family life David Cameron employed the term “nitty gritty” that got Labour home office minister John Denham into hot water for using in May 2002.

It will be interesting to see whether the BBC receives complaints about his use of the term, employed by him to mean ‘the heart of the matter’ and whether he used it in full knowledge of the controversy it caused to challenge politically correct censorship. It is possible that he has already been reported to the police for using the term.

Speaking to the Police Federation Denham had been told by some of those attending that its use was banned by the Metropolitan Police and that officers would be disciplined for using the term. Denham told delegates: ‘It does show there are phrases in our language that we are not aware of’.”

It caused quite a stir and highlighted the dispute over politically correct language.

There was some debate about the origin and use of the term. Its detractors argued that its use could have originated from the slave trade where ‘nitty gritty’ could have described what was left in the holds of slave ships after victims were removed.

Lexicographers, however, have stated that its first appearance was as late as 1956 and that no written record of its use is found before then.

Nitty gritty” is one of many terms whose use is described as offensive by race campaigners Ligali. Their list of offensive terms in their media guidelines includes: people of colour, coloured, black, black on black, third world, and urban. It calls disrespectful: Afro-Caribbean, urban music, yardies. It also now finds the term ‘white’ offensive.

It provides examples of how to avoid using the term ‘black’: I only date brothas, sistas. Language’ found unobjectionable by the group includes: bounty, coconut, sell-out and PMS [pale,male and stale] popularised by former CRE chair Trevor Phillips.