Feisty by name as well as nature, Ms James was the face of Meteor’s granny advert that the company withdrew yesterday after complaints that it was offensive to older people.
The advertisement, broadcast on RTÉ, depicted an elderly lady being ejected from a family Christmas dinner after a “present detector” shows that she has brought a tea cosy as a gift. This does not match her host’s expectations of a Meteor mobile phone.
Just like her famous namesake, there’s a wild side to Ms James, 92, who says she had a “whale of a time” making the commercial. “I loved every minute of it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I thought she was very feisty. She told them to ‘stuff their turkey’, and pulled all the draperies down. I thought, ‘that will tell them’.
“I’ve been a teacher of music. I’ve collected insurance, I’ve done everything. I paint and I play the organ, so there’s nothing wrong with old age, you know.”
PC is an international phenomenon and can often be utterly absurd.
LA’s Silicon Valley once banned its tech people from using the terms “master” and “slave” to describe which of two computers was controlling the other. This was on the grounds that the terms might condone sexual harassment.
Could the PC police manage to get any sillier? Of course they can. Earlier this month, a Santa in an Australian department store said he had been fired for saying “ho ho ho” and singing Christmas songs to children.
Employment company Westaff, which supplies stores with Santas, had earlier asked them to say “ha ha ha” because the word “ho”, which is American slang for prostitute, could offend women.
70-year-old John Oakes was sacked for saying “ho ho ho” and for singing Jingle Bells.
“They’re trying to kill the spirit of Christmas,” said Oakes, a retired entertainer who has been a Santa for three years.
Westaff spokesman Bert Jansz said Oakes had been dismissed because of his attitude, and not for his ho ho ho-ing.
Closer to home, “brainstorming”, the buzzword used to generate ideas among staff, has been deemed politically incorrect by civil servants because it is thought to be offensive to people with brain disorders.
Instead, staff at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) in Belfast will use the term “thought-showers” when they get together to think creatively. A spokeswoman said: “The DETI does not use the term brainstorming on its training courses on the grounds that it may be deemed pejorative.”
In the US, the movement for verbal cleansing has reached even greater heights.
In a book called Animal Equality: Language and Liberation, “deceptive” language is blamed for sheltering cruelty to animals (or, more correctly, “non- humans”).
The author, Joan Dunayer, describes it as: “The first book on language and non-human oppression.”
According to her thesis, the words beast, aquarium and dairy farmer should be avoided and replaced with non-human animal, aquaprison and cow enslaver respectively.
Among other terms which Dunayer suggests we should use are “free-living non-humans” instead of wildlife, “genocide by hunting” for over-hunting, “torture a fish” for play a fish, “food-industry captive” for farm animal and “cattle abuser” for cowboy.
This is bound to feed the non-PC brigade who frequently create absurd examples mocking attempts to change language, such as “vertically challenged”, “personhole cover”, and “coffee without milk” — supposedly used to avoid the racist term “black coffee”.
On the basis of reason and ethics, it makes sense, says Dunayer, to “value benign individuals more than those who, on balance, cause harm. In utilitarian terms, a chicken’s life is worth more — not less — than the life of the average human, because chickens are far more benign”.
In the United States, the term political correctness is no longer — well — politically correct.
The proper term is “sensitivity and insensitivity” used to describe anyone who is not PC positive.