Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on professions, plain English and the danger of disregarding lockdown

A reader takes me to task and refers sneerily to my “profession,” using inverted commas for added effect. The implication is that journalism isn't really a profession. No offence taken. Turning trees into newspapers has always struck me as not so much a profession as a trade. But what's in a name?


Many pages on the NHS's official website make no mention of the word “woman,” even when offering advice on purely female conditions such as menopause, childbirth and periods. After many months of this nonsense, more than 1,000 NHS staff are demanding the return of the W-word. As they put it: “The NHS must use women's words for women's bodies and women's health problems.“

So is this the beginning of the end of genderfluid wokery? If so, while they're at it, can the NHS and the rest of the public sector scrap the growing use of “they” instead of “he” or “she” in an attempt to make us all the same?

In many cases “they” is not only confusing but it does terrible things to plain English; the reader has no idea whether a sentence refers to one person or several. I came across an example where the writer tried to remain politically correct while indicating the subject was singular. The result was: “They wants a new book.”

What worries me about Whitehall's WhatsApp scandal is the growing assumption that lockdown was a 100 per cent failure, imposed for political, not scientific, reasons and had little effect, apart from wrecking the lives of school pupils. It may be true that lockdown was not a great weapon against Covid-19. But what if the next pandemic (and there will be a next one) is a different beast?

Imagine a scenario where isolation is actually the best weapon against a new and unknown virus but politicians, still wary of the fallout from 2020-21, are too scared of their reputations even to consider it?

And thus the next mutant strain, which could easily have been halted by lockdown, will rip merrily through an unlocked-down population. There is a danger, as the old saying goes, (trigger alert for sensitive readers) of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.