There are some people who wake up every morning, have a cup of coffee, sit down, and do nothing all day long except look for something to be offended by.
How else can you explain Vogue’s Hamish Bowles offended by the use of the word “niggling” in a headline? Yeah, it sounds a lot like the “N” word but the reality is a lot different. Bowles was writing about Fleet Street coverage of the Prince Harry-Meghan Markle Oprah interview and objected to a headline in the Daily Mail from 2017.
He chose to focus his ire on one headline in particular: a 2017 front page of the Daily Mail featuring a comment piece by Sarah Vine that read: ‘Yes, they’re joyfully in love. So why do I have a niggling worry about this engagement picture?’
While Bowles admitted that the dictionary definition of ‘niggling’ is merely ‘bothersome or persistent especially in a petty or tiresome way’ he added ‘nevertheless, the word seemed a surprising choice and jumped from the page, as presumably it was intended to.’
Toby Young, general secretary of the Free Speech Union, said: “It’s a bit like claiming that a newspaper is racist because the ink it uses on its pages is black. It’s just silly and absurd.”
We saw this same sort of nonsense two decades ago when a Washington, D.C., politician who worked for then-Mayor Marion Barry said the word “niggardly” during a budget committee hearing. In fact, “niggardly” is a Scandinavian-rooted word that means “miserly” and has no connection to the racist insult.
But hey! It sounded racist. The guy lost his job over the incident until the blowback from free speech activists forced Barry to rehire him.
Do you think that ended the matter? Absolutely not. It seems that the staffer’s intent was questioned, that he used the word deliberately to insult black people. That’s sort of the explanation given by Bowles.
The Internet also expressed their thoughts over the whole fiasco as one user tweeted, “The absurb thing is that the author gave a dictionary definition in his piece. Then made an implication about how it might be interpreted by the reader in complete contradiction. Vogue: ‘Dictionaries lie folks!’ Where are we if journalists can’t take words in their true meaning?” The second user commented, “I have no niggling doubt on this -utter balderdash, with no apologies to balls…”
Ms. Markle is black. Any niggling doubts we might have about using that word in the same sentence as a black person should be laid to rest. It’s another glorious example of being racist and not being aware of it.
Perhaps we should permanently ban the letters “N” “I” and “G” to avoid any misunderstanding about our intent. To those too unwoke to understand, there are still 21 perfectly good letters that can be used.
So stop your bitching and comply.