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An Israeli child wounded by a Hamas rocket is taken to hospital (credit: Edi Israel)

As my text for today, I take the words "inappropriate", "disproportionate", "challenging" and "extraordinary". I intend to examine them in their current context, starting with the last.

Increasingly, the word "extraordinary" is splattered about the papers like a Rorschach test. "What an extraordinary performance she gives . . . it's really extraordinarily moving . . . that extraordinary moment when she's carried aloft in that most extraordinary of arias . . . It's simply extraordinary." 

Except it isn't. Not any more. Overuse has rendered it the most mundane, least expressive adjective in the language and it has come to mean its exact opposite, ordinary. 

Similarly, the word "challenging" has sprung from political correctness and has come to suggest not resistance or defiance but something insoluble. It is applied liberally and equally to disability, the NHS, resolving the problems in the Middle East, and opening a West End show in a hot summer.

Which brings me to the inappropriate use of the word inappropriate. Explained in the dictionary as "unsuitable or not relevant to the topic", it has come to define any bad or unethical behaviour, mostly relating to insults and sexual mores. I'm ashamed to report that I used it myself once when asked by the press why a relationship had broken up. I blamed his "inappropriate behaviour". The word was so much in the zeitgeist, it seemed more on-trend than saying, "Actually, he was just weird."

I'm not averse to language moving on. I understand why a "frightfully decent chap" became "a nice guy"; every generation needs their own vernacular. In my day, "nice" itself was deemed lazy and unimaginative — and indeed, originally meant "stupid". It has long since been replaced by "cool", "wicked" and, I'm told, "sick". What's sauce for the goose is coulis for the cognoscenti. Hearing myself on radio, I'm always depressed by the number of times I say, "you know." But my real tooth-grinding kicks in when words evolve in dangerous directions.

"Disproportionate" is such a word. And these days, it seems to be used almost exclusively to describe any action — defensive or responsive — by the state of Israel.

Can someone point me in the direction of a proportionate war? The civil war in Syria  has killed 170,000 people. Is that "proportionate"? Where are the protests outside the Syrian embassy? Why aren't Twitter and Facebook feeds exploding with horror? And this is without any outside provocation. Thirty-two sophisticated tunnels were built to bring terrorism into the heart of Israel and 3,000 rockets have been fired. It is the world's response to Israel's retaliation that is out of proportion. 

The airways are awash with vitriol. On LBC, James O'Brien, one of those bullies whom radio bosses employ in the name of plain speaking, initiated a debate under the heading: "Why should any more Palestinian children be killed?" It's a rhetorical question — why should any child be killed? No compassionate human being wants anyone killed in the name of someone else's argument. Still, anyone who didn't answer got short shrift from Mr O'Brien, who sardonically repeated his mantra: "Two hundred and sixty Palestinians dead and only one old Jewish woman in Israel!"

"Carnage on the beach because they have their Iron Dome." For this read: "Not enough Jews dead!"

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Tony Sandy
February 24th, 2016
2:02 PM
And you don't even mention the way they look down on The West when they get here. They want what the West has (technology, cars etc) but don't want the culture that fostered it. They want the golden egg but are not happy with the goose, in other words. Shariah law is medieval and how can you produce anything if you chop off your work forces hands? Public beheadings are so last millenium as is stoning your wife for adultery or female genital mutilation. What has any of this got to do with God? Nothing. It is man subjecting women, the poor, the different etc. To quote Terry Nation in 'The Daleks,'it is dislike of the unlike. Do they integrate? No, unlike other immigrants to the UK, they keep themselves to themselves because we aren't good enough for them.

art
September 15th, 2014
9:09 PM
One can no longer rationalize and pretend that these acts are other than just plain old fashioned hatred of Jews. It is trukly amazing that hatred of Jews supersedes their own interests. Mr. Graham Norton, as an openly gay man, would be tortured and killed by those like,hamas,iran and hezbouleh that he supports. Most of the "artists" who so easily condemn Israelis and Jews would themselves be censored or jailed for their works in most muslim countries. The double standard is more than merely being bought by oil money it is anti Semitism

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