And I don’t just mean slightly mad here, I mean totally, raving psycho. It’s when minority victim groups try to stop us using phrases like the ones I’ve just used on the grounds that someone, somewhere, might be offended.
Last week it was David Cameron’s turn to fall foul of the professional offence-taking lobby. After describing a coalition policy that had sent people “completely mental”, Cameron was immediately upbraided for supposed insensitivity.
Mind, the mental health charity, claimed his remark was “discriminatory in essence” and added primly: “It’s language we wouldn’t really approve of. Someone in his position should know better.”
Not to be outdone, a Lib Dem MP called Paul Burstow stuck his oar in: “This sort of language doesn’t help and it feeds the prejudice that exists that people with mental health problems have in some way brought it on themselves.”
Eh? Come again? Is there anyone out there in their right mind (or not in their right mind, come to that) who seriously found anything offensive in Cameron’s choice of phrase?
Sure, you might argue it’s less dignified and more colloquial than we’d expect of a prime minister. But it’s hardly what you’d call controversial.
I doubt anyone reading this will ever have used the phrase “gone completely mental” and felt the kind of guilty shudder you would if, say, you’d just told a racist joke. That’s because it’s perfectly normal, widely used and generally accepted as completely harmless.
But now the professional offence-taking lobby wants to put the phrase off-limits, in the way they tried – ludicrously – to do with Baa Baa Black Sheep in the Eighties, and the way the police tried to do with “nitty-gritty” in the 2000s.