Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on naming animals, naming humans and after 'sandwich parents', what next?

Trigger alert: this column is mostly about taking offence.

Gillian Burke – what's in a name?

In this world of a million isms, you have to be pretty sure of your terms before putting your head above the parapet (which is an old army expression that could be construed as needless militarism and for which I naturally apologise.)

Take, for example, the BBC Springwatch presenter Gillian Burke who has a swipe at colonialism by telling us she prefers to call African animals by their Swahili names rather than the English ones, which “jar” on her ears. But barely has she scaled the moral high ground of animal-naming than she is attacked by a viewer who points out that Africa has 3,000 languages, so why single out Swahili?

This may be the first recorded incident when someone takes a stand against imperialism and is herself denounced for Swahili-centrism. Strange times, indeed.

Let us admit in this easily offended age, that imposing one culture on another can cause problems. Take the young Fiji-born woman who was told by one internet company that her first name was unacceptable and “potentially offensive.” As Private Eye magazine reports, the woman was hurt and puzzled because in her homeland it is a common forename: Swastika.

I may claim a record for being ageist, sexist and anti-neurodivergent in just three little words. But then how many of us watched the chisel attack on Magna Carta by Just Stop Oil pensioners a few days ago and did not exclaim: “Mad old biddies!” at the sheer arrogance and entitlement of it all?

Terms for our time. By now we are all familiar with “sandwich” parents, the ones financially supporting not only their own children but their parents, too. Finance experts have now identified another group, responsible not for two other generations but three, including grandparents or grandchildren. These generous (or possibly exploited) souls have been dubbed “club sandwich parents” and there are already more than 800,000 such families in Britain.

What next? Families of five generations, living on the wages of one generation, and named after some suitable multi-layered foodstuff? It will end in tiers.