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Austin Mitchell, ‘rapists’ and the death of language

14 May 2014

In further proof that the devil makes work for idle thumbs, Labour MP Austin Mitchell described Pfizer as ‘rapists’ in a tweet. All hell has since broken loose.

All of which leaves Mr S nonplussed. Definitions of the noun ‘rape’ are as follows:

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1. the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
2. any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
3. statutory rape.
4. an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation.

Mr S is confident that Mitchell was using the word ‘rapists’ in the sense of the fourth definition – an act of plunder, despoliation and violation. After all, even Austin Mitchell is not sufficiently doolally to think that Pfizer will compel the folk at AstraZeneca to have sexual intercourse, perhaps with the coercive aid of Mr Read’s ‘empowerment coin’, as part of the proposed corporate takeover.

However, Mr S censures the oaf Mitchell for using a saloon bar cliché like ‘rapists’ rather than the beautifully brutal alternative ‘despoilers’ – ie, those who strip value or possessions.

Still, Mr S is rather shaken that British society apparently takes offence at words rather than the context in which they are used. English would be less rich if dictionaries were to amend their entry for ‘rape’ by inserting the word ‘archaic’ before the fourth definition.

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Show comments
  • vafa
  • araz

    You shouldn’t use that word; it’s offensive to homeless people.
    کرکره برقیدوربین مدار بستهدرب اتوماتیک

  • CharlietheChump

    I blame state education

  • english_pensioner

    The origin of the word rape is quoted as:
    late Middle English (originally denoting violent seizure of property, later carrying off a woman by force): from Anglo-Norman French rap (noun), raper (verb), from Latin rapere ‘seize’..
    So the use of the word is correct if used in its original context.

  • David L Rattigan

    I think it’s more linguistically complex than this. In my experience, “rape” has that now-quaint-sounding meaning of a place or people being conquered, plundered, etc, but I don’t recall said conquerors and plunderers ever being called “rapists.” As someone else suggested, you can’t just transfer meaning across verbs, nouns, etc, like that. Words are far more complex than that.

    • Span Ows

      I agree, this is the point I was going to make: the term “rape and pillage” is commonplace and almost a Pythonesque joke when describing ‘what the Vikings did’ but never ever were/are they called rapists.

  • Ian McKellar

    Then what would one rename “The Rape of Nanking”?

  • Martin Jennerson

    The BBC/Guardian/Labour Party would be calling for the restoration of the death penalty if a UKIP councillor had said the same thing

  • Blindsideflanker

    You might feel sorry for Mitchell if he wasn’t a member of the Labour party, the very people who have politicised language.

    • Shazza

      As you sow, so shall you reap!

  • colliemum

    “Still, Mr S is rather shaken that British society apparently takes offence at words rather than the context in which they are used.”
    Where have you been, Mr S? The unseemly kerfuffle about the use of the ‘N’ word in the last few weeks must have passed you by entirely.
    One of your colleagues at a paper not a thousand miles away even insisted that context means nothing when using that word.
    And that ‘British society’, which really only means Westminster Village, is taking offence at mere words – well, that’s been going for some time as well.
    But I’m glad you’ve now taken notice!

    • roger

      Stop hiding in that woodpile and realise that some people go nuts over PC.

      • Darnell Jackson

        That made me snigger

  • MirthaTidville

    Austin Mitchell is a straight talker of the old school, who has never bowed to PC. He rightly, regards it as a cancer within our society. As for his accusers, they really do need to calm down and stop being silly. If they cant see the context in which the word was used, they have no right to be considered intelligent

    • HookesLaw

      He is no better than people who go on about bongobongoland.

      • WatTylersGhost

        Hookie, isn’t that where the 200 girls have been kidnapped? I think bongobongoland sums it up perfectly.

      • Wessex Man

        When are you going to apologise for the Mayor of Swindon and Daanny Mayzes? Have nothing better than that?

    • Blindsideflanker

      Context was never allowed to give Labour a moments hesitation in their witch hunt to ruin someone else career.

    • IainRMuir

      “Austin Mitchell is a straight talker of the old school”

      No he isn’t, I remember him at Yorkshire Television. He’s just a mouth on a stick.

  • Count Dooku

    The Tories are having a bit of fun at Mr Mitchell’s expense. Clobbering the lefties at their PC game. All’s fair in politics abs war.

    • HookesLaw

      But it also shows labour’s attitude to industry. Never mind we can always rely on Labour to ‘pick winners’.

  • HookesLaw

    It is possible that the odious Mitchell and Mr Steerpike and his dictionary are confused with ‘rapine’.
    Its clear what the word ‘rapists’ mean and Mitchell despoils the agony of those who have undergone such attacks by tossing it around so casually.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Labour began this habit of using emotive trigger words incontinently for party political gain and therefore de-valuing them. Their chickens have come home to roost.

    • Swiss Bob

      You need a dictionary, and probably some friends.

    • roger

      Verb, infinitive and adjectival noun are not really interchangeable.

    • ButcombeMan

      So you never heard of “raping” a country?

      I always thought you none too educated. Now we know for sure.

  • Tron

    I love it when Left Wingers get caught out by Political Correctness, which they invented.
    I see many on Twitter are defending him. I wonder what the same people would say if he was UKIP?

    • telemachus

      The word was rapist not racist

      • Colonel Mustard

        How are UKIP racist? Please provide an actual example of a racist UKIP policy.

        The only party I know of that encourages treating people differently according to their ethnicity is Labour. They believe in putting people into categorised identity groups (labelling them) in order to pander to them or demonise them. Like you do.

        • Andy

          Oh yes Diana Abbott and her views on ‘white people’.

          • telemachus

            You forgot to call Diane a fascist

            • Andy

              I don’t need to. We all know what she is, just like we all know what you are.

            • Fergus Pickering

              Diane is a fascist. A fat black fascist.

        • telemachus

          I have released the arguments on other threads
          I simply draw your attention to the resignation statement of one of their members, Sanya-Jeet Thandi, ex leader of their youth wing

          • Colonel Mustard

            Not good enough.

            Please cite an actual racist UKIP policy.

            • telemachus

              The scaremongering Wednesday posters “plonked” around Northern cities with large Asian populations
              I personally spoke to immigrants when I visited Toxteth and there was an undercurrent of fear about the posters

              • Hexhamgeezer


                • telemachus

                  Sorry if we woke you
                  UKIP will not get a look in in your neck of the woods
                  You must feel lonely in the land of the forces of reason

              • Colonel Mustard

                Still not good enough. Posters are not a policy. The hostile reaction to a poster by people who oppose UKIP does not define a UKIP policy. Please cite an actual racist UKIP policy to support your assertion that they are racist.

          • Alexandrovich

            Nothing would surprise me anymore, least of all her being ‘placed’ in UKIP and primed to go off at the code-words
            ‘Surge in Farages’s popularity’.

          • Wessex Man

            but I’m more interested in your resignation statement after you stood as a candidate for UKip.

      • Fergus Pickering

        And a rapist is much better than a racist, isn’t he?

      • Colonel Mustard

        Why are you doing the SWP’s dirty work for them here? Are you a SWP member masquerading as a Labour supporter? It is suspicious that you peddle militant hard left Marxist propaganda and write about your support of the totalitarian, political police-state regimes of Stalin and Honecker, romanticised by the kind of left wing idiots who join the SWP.

        Why does the Labour party attract extremists like you?

        Watch this film about the SWP and UKIP and then stop the racist smearing:-

  • Swiss Bob

    I did ask Nicky Morgan if she knew what a dictionary was but what do you expect from Labour Wimmin and the thought police?

    • Stigenace

      I have to tell you that Nicky Morgan is a Conservative. That said, the mistake is understandable as it’s so difficult to differentiate the parties these days.

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