Chichester District Council has provoked the wrath of Middle England by suggesting to staff and members that the phrase "man on the street" would better be expressed by "general public", since the former is "based on the assumption that the world is male and makes the views or work of women invisible".
The West Sussex authority's seven-page guide to political correctness also puts the boot into "manning the switchboard", replacing the verb with "staffing" or "running". Rather more plausibly, council operatives are advised to avoid dismissing old timers as "old woman", "old fool" and "old codger" in favour of "old person".
This splendid linguistic tomfoolery quickly caught the eye of the Telegraph, which duly located Tony Colpoys, chairman of local Ebernoe parish council, for a major venting of spleen. Mr Colpoys, presumably while ejecting superheated steam from both ears, thundered: "This kind of thing really gets my goat - it's not as though anybody in their right mind would believe that the 'man in the street' referred solely to the male sex. It's just stupid, I've never heard anything like it.
"I think political correctness is one of the most ghastly things about our society - it's one of the most repulsive things ever to be invented."*
A council spokes
manperson defended: "We introduced the guide because as community leaders we must be aware of what modern society requires of the public sector. This includes the sensitivity of various individuals and groups, and current thinking in society in general.
"It is easy to make fun of individual phrases or words but what we are seeking to do is to be more sensitive and responsive to the needs of others in our society." ®
* Mr Colpoys has evidently never heard of the atom bomb, concentration camp or, for that matter, Marmite.