Peter Rhodes on unreadable text, an author's dilemma and why Ms may be on the way out

The American crime writer Patricia Cornwell says she has to find politically correct ways to refer to people in her books because “everybody's so worried about offending everybody.” She recently spent 45 minutes choosing a non-sexist alternative to the word “fishermen,” finally settling for “fisherfolk.”

Paracetamol - unreadable text
Paracetamol - unreadable text

Good luck with the PC stuff, Ms Cornwell. But in my limited experience, the more we strive to be PC today, the more we will be reviled tomorrow. Woke folk, for example, will have tut-tutted at my use of the term “Ms.” Once the feminists' preferred term to denote a woman who did not want to be branded Mrs or Miss, Ms itself is now seen in some circles as deeply un-PC.

Why? Because in these non-binary times, “Ms” is regarded as gender-related. It could seriously offend a non-binary person, or anyone else claiming membership of the staggering number of gender choices now available. According to which source you believe, there are anything up to 76 different genders. This is why the genderfluid “Mx,” pronounced Max, Mix or Mux, is becoming fashionable. But give it long enough and someone will announce that he/she is/are outraged and insulted by Mx.

And a few years from now, I dare say Patricia Cornwell will be ploughing through the umpteenth re-draft of her books, following complaints from fishermen, fisherwomen, fisherfolk and, of course, fishermx. If there is one thing more stunning than the number of genders, it is the number of things people can get offended about.

It is 4am. The super-cold has you in its chilly yet sweaty viral grip. You simply want to know if your paracetamol tablets are within their expiry date. Dream on.

Some drug makers provide this information on the packet without even using ink. The all-important expiry date is embossed in tiny text on one end of the packet. Seriously, has anyone in the industry ever tried reading an embossed “10 2024” in the middle of the night? Two points. The first is that all this information is provided elsewhere on the tablet box, for the benefit of blind people, so you might consider learning Braille. The second is that there's plenty of room on the end of the box to print the expiry date in a sensible, readable size, in ink. Some firms do. So why don't they all?

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