Thursday, September 18, 2008

A shower in a teacup

It has been brought to my attention that some unnamed (and possibly fictional, but never mind that) They have decreed that the term ‘brainstorm’ should no longer be used, as it may cause offence to people with epilepsy.

Now, using the word ‘brainstorm’ is almost as an unpleasant experience as having to sit through – sorry, taking a pro-active part in – one of the bloody things, but even so I think it’s a decent enough name for the process of coming up with a lot of ideas of indeterminate quality in a group. Although, like ‘smear test’, ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘ITV comedy drama’, you can accept the term while shuddering at the prospect of what it denotes.

The suggested alternative is ‘thought-shower’.

Go on, say it out loud. See how it feels. Use it in a sentence, if you dare. “Mr Dalliard, we’ve got to get going to the departmental thought-shower in a few minutes!”


I’m almost tempted to use ‘head spasm’ instead, just to really piss off anyone who thinks a ‘brainstorm’ causes any more discomfort to people with epilepsy than it does to those without.

Thought-shower. Utterly appalling. It conjures up images of a group of American women bringing presents round to a party for one of their friends on the occasion of her having had an idea, and at the same time it ominously yet drably connotes a deviant sexual practice in which one partner cogitates all over the other for their mutual perverted pleasure.

But, of course, the real, killer objection is that it itself is offensive (and not just to those of us who foam in horror at corporate bullshit). The word ‘shower’ is likely to cause offence to ineffectual groups of people, and ‘thought’ to those who have never had an original one in their gurning little lives.


Chris said...

The last time this story was around it was blamed on the Teacher Training Agency, not an inchoate Them. Bets that the person who suggested the term in one training session first heard the term thought shower from such a story? These things do seem to have a self-fulfillment about them. I'm sure I've seen people get upset about things they didn't even think about getting upset about until they read lying bullshit journalism about how ridiculous it was that people were upset about something that nobody at that time was upset about. If you follow me.

The Plump said...

My favourite one of these was certainly real. I heard it myself. A Stockport council official was on radio defending a code of practice on the use of language, banning offensive terms. I do actually agree with some of this, we sometimes forget how language can reflect and reinforce real social inequities.

This guy said that 'taking the mickey' was banned because it would be offensive to Irish people. Eh? He obviously didn't know the origin of the phrase. 'Mickey' is short for micturation and so it was a polite way of saying taking the piss.

It was his assumption that was offensive to the Irish, not the the phrase.

Tom Freeman said...

Yeah, I have to to see the headline 'Outrage erupts after barely noteworthy incident described as outrageous', but it'd be a nice change...

I vaguely remember, years back, some blithering fool suggesting that 'history' was a sexist term, implying that it's 'his' - and proposed a 'herstory' movement. Whether this was cynical self-publicising or just a total ignorance of etymology I don't know, but... oh god, I can't even be bothered to finish the sentence, it's just so far beneath contempt.

anticant said...

The 'thought police' who ignorantly attempt to manipulate the language in this way are indeed a shower!