Letter: Beware the Tory MP and his racist gaffe- or was it?

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The Independent Online
Sir: Polly Toynbee is right that those who claim to deplore the language of equality actually deplore the idea of equality, but she makes only a vague allusion to the principles of modern linguistics which underpin her argument.

According to Ferdinand de Saussure's structuralist theory of linguistics, the way people use words is indivisible from their meaning. There cannot be a difference in form without a difference in meaning.

The English language is less susceptible to inherently sexist usage than those languages which have a gender system, but it does have a colourful and varied range of derogatory terms for women and foreigners, as Ms Toynbee mentioned: "wogs", "bimbos", "tarts", "nig-nogs" and so on. There are far more ways to insult a woman or a foreigner than there are to insult a white male.

ALEXANDER HOFMANN

(A white male)

St Andrews, Fife

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