Monday, April 6, 2009
My daughter found herself in trouble at school for wearing an ‘inappropriate’ amount of make-up. You know I’d forgotten how much headmistresses loved giving you the old ‘inappropriate’ lecture. What a lousy excuse for word! Well I’m going to have a few inappropriate words with you all on the inappropriate use of the word ‘inappropriate’. Have you noticed it’s usually favoured amongst those who have the most invested in not saying what they mean? It’s a word in which the spin doctors can hide all their monumental stuff-ups and righteous indignation. Headmistresses love to use inappropriate precisely because it’s so imprecise. It could mean anything: improper, crude, thoughtless, reckless even scandalous. But oh no those words might give us a cheap thrill. It seems politicians don’t lie any more, they ‘respond inappropriately’. And kids don’t get suspended for wagging school and smoking anymore; they get transferred for ‘inappropriate’ language in the classroom. Inappropriate also means the boss never has to say, ‘look I’m sorry but some dipstick at our end fucked this up comprehensively and quite frankly, I’m amazed you’ve managed to follow the electronic trail of incompetence back to this computer. Of course shit-for-brains was overcome with remorse and has since resigned’. Then there’s the problem with male office workers drinking inappropriate amounts of alcohol and being completely inappropriate towards female colleagues: ‘Oh come on sweetheart! Show us ya euphemisms!’ So what the bloody hell does this inappropriate mean? Just tell us! It’s like trying to get a straight answer from Dame Edna. Now funnily enough, history books have never shown much use for the word. What on earth would we make of the fall of the Roman Empire if it was written that two hundred thousand Huns behaved inappropriately? And where would the fun be if we only knew Catherine the Great had an ‘inappropriate’ amount of husbands and died doing ‘inappropriate’ things with a horse? Then again, maybe if Napoleon Bonaparte had realized ‘inappropriate’ meant ‘freezing your tits off’ he would not have attempted to cross Russia in the middle of December. And then we all would have missed out. Now despite all this, I still think there are some things which are genuinely inappropriate: farting at the dinner table; black bras under white T-shirts; and screwing the best man in the bridal suite at your girlfriend’s wedding. So while we’re having fun not saying what we really mean, what does your inner prude still find inappropriate?