PETER Allen called Australia home. Bruce Brown of Marks Point calls a spade a spade.
Mr Brown wrote (Short Takes, 21/8) "like Cr Robinson, Israel Folau and many others still call a spade a spade regardless of the twisting and misuse of our language by the homosexual fraternity".
Last Wednesday's NewcastleHerald also hosted a letter ("Bit tough to take", 21/8) from Kevin Miller of Windale pointing out that "these days the word p--f can't be used as someone will be offended ...".
He took issue with former rugby league great Ian Roberts ("I won't take it anymore", Herald, 17/8) saying that there are kids in the suburbs killing themselves. Mr Miller asks "why would kids kill themselves because a Newcastle councillor used the 'p' word"?
Mr Brown and Mr Miller are not the only correspondents to voice concern over the fuss surrounding the use of the p-word or "p--f" - with dashes - as it has been used in the Herald. The vast majority of readers recognise the expression "p-word" for the word that it represents. Perhaps referring to it in print as "p--f" provides comfort to the more delicate reader and doesn't amplify its use. Mr Brown railed against the homosexual fraternity's "unrelenting offensive 'bullying'" by using "political correctness" and he'll call a spade a spade.
Perhaps referring to it in print as "p--f" provides comfort to the more delicate reader and doesn't amplify its use.
At the risk of turning the dial on the politically correct machine up to 11, the phrase "call a spade a spade" should be, like the word p--f, retired from use.
The expression "call a spade a spade" has long been employed to "tell it like it is". Historians have traced the origins of the expression to the Greek phrase "to call a fig a fig and a trough a trough". The original Greek expression was likely to have been vulgar in nature, with "figs" and "troughs" being double entendres for body parts as used in the choruses anticipating the consummation of marriage between Trygaeus and his bride Harvest in Aristophanes' Peace.
Erasmus translated the phrase "to call a fig a fig and a trough a trough" from Greek to Latin. In that work, he changed the phrase to "call a spade a spade" and the expression entered the English language when Udall translated Erasmus in 1542.
The early usages of the word "spade" did not refer to either race or skin colour. But in the 1949 edition of The American Language, "spade" is listed as one of the "opprobrious" names for African-Americans (but the book used a term more archaic and offensive than "African-Americans").
And what about the claim that kids in the suburbs are killing themselves because of the p-word? A singular targeting of that word alone may or may not cause a young person to take their own life. Who knows? But the cumulative effect of bullying through weaponised language can have devastating outcomes.
Three decades ago, the US Department of Health and Human Services Task Force on Youth Suicide cited that homosexuals are six to seven times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexuals.
Peer-reviewed research published in Youth Studies Australia - "Young gay men and suicide: a report of a study exploring the reasons which young men give for suicide ideation" - identified society's negative attitudes and responses to homosexuality as underlying many of the problems experienced during the coming out process.
The Black Dog Institute's #mindthefacts campaign points out that compared to their heterosexual peers, same-sex attracted people are 14 times more likely to attempt suicide, twice as likely to experience anxiety disorders and three times more likely to experience affective disorders compared with the broader population.
Newcastle just celebrated a terrific Pride Festival. Almost 75 per cent of the Newcastle electorate voted "yes" in the same sex plebiscite - the fifth highest "yes" result in NSW.
I hope Mr Brown, Mr Miller and Cr Robinson might reconsider their use of the "p" word. I hope they might read "How Michael Kirby saved my life" by former Maitland Mercury scribe and now Sydney Morning Herald chief sports writer Andrew Webster.
And I hope they might think about how they'd feel if they had a brother, a son, a cousin, or a friend for whom relentless name calling had pushed them to an irreversible action that left behind a thousand broken hearts, and how the insistence of some people to exercise their "right" to "call a spade a spade" might have contributed to that loss. The meaning of words evolve and change. People can too.