The power of words

Baroness Deech

I have been puzzling over this one.  The Tory Chief Whip eventually resigned over the issue of using (although he denies it) the word “plebs” in relation to the police. He admitted swearing at them, but swearing, whatever the words, was not deemed to be as great a sin as the use of the word “plebs”.  But only last week  Alex Salmond was reported as referring to the government as “Lord Snootys” (shouldn’t that be Snooties?).  What if he had used such a phrase or similar on a visit to Balmoral or Holyrood House and been angered because his way had been obstructed? The internet and the press are awash with insulting phrases used against perceived upper class, e.g. (forgive me) “Tory scum”, “Eton mafia”, twits and worse.  Class warfare is being waged by language.  Why is it worse one way than the other? And in general the public is not best served when genuine debate is obscured by the use of bad language.

18 comments for “The power of words

  1. Chris Nicolson
    28/10/2012 at 12:33 pm

    I have no idea why the press focussed on the word ‘pleb’. Much worse was his use of the phrase “you should know your place” which is far more derogatory and telling.

    I think the class issue will always remain as long as rich people lecture the less well off on austerity. Telling people their council and government services have to be cut when they personally are financially elite will never be accepted.

    The problem with the relentless battering of the Conservatives as posh rich boys is that it ignores the fact that Labour have their own wealthy elite. Especially here in Scotland, the public are still under the mistaken impression that Labour is a party of union reps and workers turned politicians, not career politicians.

  2. MilesJSD
    28/10/2012 at 12:42 pm

    Good piece of protagonism, Baroness Deech;
    indeed such other “scum” political-correctness and deeper-entrenched English-language cover-up- falsehoods and weasel-wordings as “friendy-fire”, “ethnic-cleansing” need to be made straight, too.

    We should add such specifics to your closing sentence
    “…the public is not served…neither by bad language (swearing, name-calling, unfair-provocational-behaviour or conduct) nor by verbal falsifications of the Truth…
    and neither are the Establishment, the Educational, and the Governing Bodies of this Land, and of the whole English speaking World, being helped to plan, build and maintain Peace and Sustainworthy-Plenty, thereby”.
    Therein sit these smaller contexts, of “plebs” and so forth
    (but more commonly used is the like of “flipping askholes”)
    distorted both by
    the hidden bigger Context (what were the immediate effects upon the emotions and senses-of-security of the two respective sides ? and why were neither party “pre-pared” (pre-skilled) for their actions to have a provocative effect ?) amidst its even bigger hidden Context (as instanced above);
    and by
    “it all depends what is meant by, and what you now mean by _ _ _”

    and of course upon
    one side or the other, or both, is
    the other side to be saying/doing.
    ——- –
    * “perceived” : a constituted and common Police and Courtroom ‘term’ meaning “imagined”, “hallucinated”, “fantasised”, “is illuded/deluded about”.
    [ Innit ?

    Or out-of-it ? ]

  3. maude elwes
    28/10/2012 at 12:47 pm

    The simple answer, Baroness, is noblesse oblige.

  4. ladytizzy
    28/10/2012 at 4:10 pm

    Quite so, Baroness Deech, but it doesn’t take too much effort to rise above it all, does it?

    One or two wondered why the world was not gifted the CCTV recordings of the event in order to brush up our lip reading skills. Well…

  5. Gareth Howell
    28/10/2012 at 5:25 pm

    At last after all this time I am beginning to think that the noble baroness has a sense of humour and fun, quite apart from the goings on at Auntie’s, or Jimmie’s.

    I only wish the word pleb would be used more often. Alex Salmond has to bear in mind that when his party suddenly becomes the monarchist party of Scotland he has got to find a leader for it. Until then, and when he was in Westminster he told me so, his party is a “party of the left”. 12-15 years can change things for a political party and for a politician.

    Is the public ever well served?!!Ha! Ha!

  6. Sharon
    28/10/2012 at 10:16 pm

    He should be leading by example.

    If an ordinary person was to swear at the police, they would be instantly arrested.

    He got away with it lightly in my opinion and has just destroyed his reputation by lying about what he did.

    • Baroness Deech
      Baroness Deech
      29/10/2012 at 10:56 pm

      The Aldridge argument is about inequalities of power. But there are few who are as powerful as Alex Salmond (certainly more so than Andrew Mitchell), and with maybe more to come? Neither “looking up” nor “looking down” (both artificial perspectives) should sweeping generalisations in crude language be made about a whole class of people.

  7. Josh R
    29/10/2012 at 1:29 pm

    Spare me your whining about inverted snobbery. You can moan about being called a “toff” or a “twit” when you acknowledge and move to address the glaring social and political inequality between us plebs and you lot.

    Class warfare is being waged because those at the top exploit and unduly influence the lives of the majority who are lower down and do not enjoy the same privileges.

  8. MilesJSD
    29/10/2012 at 7:26 pm

    The noble baroness, notwithstanding having exigently and maybe understandably omitted other vitally-major sides of this whole Language, Conduct, and Behaviour Matter (as pointed out by several of us responding submissors)

    has nonetheless brought forward for the eyes (and ears) of both The English-speaking Public (and governancially-importantly worldwide thereof)

    a vitally important and urgent Issue;
    urgent for all Nations, and for the thrival-survival of our Lifesupports on this Earth & thereby on the next Earth too.
    Consider please, In the joint-matter of Language and its various Applications and Cogencies as a registered citizen of a Democracy you have a governance-place, work-place, and life-place responsibility , to use Language truthfully and well-assertively,
    this latter meaning that you need to stand-up equally for the real-needs of others at the same time as you are stating your own need
    (otherwise, in the democratic-lifeplace sense, just standing up for your own need is ‘aggression’ not ‘assertion’):
    ((which is why sometimes some of us like to use the hyphen to tie two or more essentials or definiens together, to specify a ‘co-assertion’, ‘co-need’ or a ‘co-governance’ situation )).

  9. Senex
    29/10/2012 at 9:41 pm

    I was of coarse one of Lord Marmaduke of Bunkerton’s best pals but was thrown out of the gang because I was caught reading the Dandy. I always thought Alex Salmond would have made a great pal; he never missed an issue of the Beano, no not ever. You see the resentment has built up in him over the years leading to this astonishing outburst at conference. Psst! Marmaduke’s grandson has a new gang Alex, membership might be cathartic.

    • maude elwes
      31/10/2012 at 12:29 pm


      If Lord Marmaduke’s grandson, (how is he still able to get into the Beano) managed to hold back his nasty reference to the working class as scroungers and cheats, then Salmond may not feel like blowing his top every time he bumps into him.

      And whilst I’m at it, the Marmaduke’s are bigger scroungers and cheats than any working class muncher. Because they never do a real days work in their lives. Not even cleaning themselves up, and expect the lower classes to keep them going on slave labour.

      So there you have it.

  10. Lord Blagger
    31/10/2012 at 8:54 pm

    Nothing like class warfare is there to justify taking other people’s money.

  11. Senex
    01/11/2012 at 1:19 pm

    Maude as we both know Lord Marmaduke of Bunkerton is a fictional character representing a stereotype of the upper classes. Jeeves and Wooster is another depiction from the same era.

    One wonders if reading the Beano is de rigeur for members of the SNP and central to policy making. If you want to get an inside track on Scottish Independence then catch up on some back issues.

    I suppose like Lady Deech you both read the Bunty or Judy as children. We don’t know what you turned to in later life but her Ladyship became a divorce layer.

    As a child I read the Beano like many but its characters and metaphors are entirely lost on today’s children especially the sixteen to seventeen year olds. The upper class twits now have useless university degrees that deny the undedicated twits jobs that do not require a university degree.

    I wonder how many in the house were subliminally pushed toward socialism by Lord Snooty. I never understood the politics of Lord Snooty as a child but I understood the Dandy and ‘Desperate Dan’. His strength and capacity for cow pie was simply amazing.

    There are statues of Desperate Dan in Dundee City Centre alongside a statue of Beano character, Minnie the Minx. Perhaps we should view Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon as ‘Dennis the Menace’ and ‘Minnie the Minx’ leaders of the Beano Party?

    • maude elwes
      01/11/2012 at 4:43 pm


      I have a brother who collected old comics and he had a bent for vintage Beano and Dandy. I never understood the attraction, but, used to peak at them from time to time whilst he wasn’t looking. So, yes I know of Desperate Dan and others. Of course, dear brother, progressed to Superman who was far more attractive as he could fly you to the moon when you were in trouble. I like his saviour tactics as I identify with damsel in distress.

      I think Salmond and his chums are on the right track. And if he squeezes hard enough he may free Scotland from the oppression of Whitehall and be able to detach my Scottish clan from the unscrupulous group called NATO. If he doesn’t stick to that policy, which he promised he would, I will be sad indeed.

      Now, remember you are a gentleman and gentlemen don’t swear at ladies! Do they?

  12. Lord Blagger
    01/11/2012 at 9:53 pm

    And the extra 1,800 quid a year they get in taxes compared to the UK.

    No doubt he will complain when he gets a Barnet Formula share of the debts.

  13. Baroness Deech
    Baroness Deech
    18/12/2012 at 9:31 pm

    Today’s news (18 Dec) that there was apparently some fraud – so much, then, for all the Pavlovian reactions above to the possibility that the word “plebs” was used.

  14. Lord Blagger
    19/12/2012 at 8:55 am

    The problem is that you treat us like plebs.

    With no say on any issue, we aren’t responsible. You are.

    There is then that small problem of 4,700,000 million pounds hidden off the books so you can carry on spending, quaffing 200 pound bottles of wine etc.

    When people turn up and say, I’d like my pension, and you turn around and say, sorry we spent in all on the booze and other things, you can’t have it, the plebs will know who to blame.

    Drip drip drip, people are finding out what the state is up to. From fitting people up, to lying about and looting their money. If I were a politician I would be demanding round the clock protection, safe houses, …

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