Monday, August 04, 2008

Not calling a spade a spade

On the issue of very overweightness, which apparently does not only run rampant amongst sedentary university students (though I can definitely testify to that).

The Guardian informs us that in future parents of British schoolchildren will receive official letters telling them if their children are obese, to raise their awareness of their children's weight and urge them to develop a healthy lifestyle.

This great idea has already raised a minor storm in a plastic beaker for high-calorie soft drinks. Because of course ministers won't call fat children obese because that's a nasty word and might prove counterproductive to this particular public health project:

Ministers do not want the word "obese" to be used in the letters home after research found it "shuts people down" to addressing their child's weight.

Would someone please explain to me what the TV-shrink phrase "shuts people down" means in proper English? When the hell did Webster's Dictionary become Winfrey's Dictionary?

And might that whole "shutting down" thing have to do with some parents actually not knowing what "obese" means? Maybe they think it means willowy, slender, slim, slight or svelte, and so everything is okay, really, with Kevin or Tiffany Walrus?

And at the same time: are people really deemed so stupid that they can't tell a fat kid from a not so fat one?

Want pictures? Have pictures!

[Macabre UPDATE here.]


Canada said...

Exactly. Must everything obvious be addressed in this era of the official buttinsky? Does anybody really think young Georgia's parents don't know she's morbidly overweight?

And just look how happy she is to have her picture in The Sun. She's famous.

The Wife said...

Yeah, The Sun - the UK's official freakshow. 100 years ago little G. would have been touring the northern parts of the realm with a travelling circus, accompanied by "Glenda, the Hairy Lady" and her speaking pig.

I hate the term "nanny state", especially when flung around by smug neoliberals, but if there is one country to which this term applies, it's the UK. Where the cuddly nanny state always seems to tip over into an Orwellian nightmare.

Those endless, endless warnings on food packaging (Warning! May contain natural ingredients! Might be healthy for a change!) and announcements in the Underground or on trains: "Hold on to the handrail", "mind the gap", "and now: breathe" - a couple of weeks in London and you get the sneaking feeling that this effing begherkined metropolis is in fact one big overpriced kindergarden.

As always: thanks for stopping by!

Canada said...

It's a similar situation here in Canada: decent people who have trouble distinguishing hate speech from hurting someone's feelings or delivering an honest critique (witness the recent Islamists vs. MacLeans Magazine debacle), and where it is legally mandated that employees attend day-long workplace safety training (euphemistically titled "Core Competencies") which includes - literally - how to physically answer the telephone without hurting themselves.

I couldn't make this stuff up.

Alex said...

Ich ziehe selber den Staat der Krankenschwester Ratchet vor...

J. Carter Wood said...

Canada. I'm baffled: are Canadians particularly prone to injuring themselves when answering the telephone? Was there...some kind of precedent-setting Tragic Incident?

I have my own experience with something similar. In order to work from home, my employer requires that a safety check-list be filled out and signed (um...every year). It asks all kinds of questions -- and issues dire warnings -- about ventilation, computer usage, floor surfaces and lighting.

I think my favourite question, though, is the one that asks: 'Does your work require no or minimal Manual Handling activities?'

And, yes, it is capitalised as presented.

The 'further information' column -- which also contains the mysterious code HSP/M1 (which sounds like the designation for some sort of new infantry weapon) -- helpfully adds a follow-up question: 'For example, do you need to move furniture/computing equipment to enable you to work?'

Should this be the case, it points out, 'You may need to make manual handling assessments and have additional manual handling training.'

Now, one could make all sorts of rude-but-amusing comments based on the bureaucratic (but strangely erotic) phrase 'manual handling', and, if I know the readers of this humble blog at all, I would expect that you already have.

But we strive to maintain a high tone here, so I will resist.

Alex: naughty. Very naughty. Of course, the Nurse Ratched state seems to be getting closer every day...

Medication time.

Canada said...

Oh, it's worse than that, Herr C-W:

At the university (which shall remain nameless) where my partner is University Librarian, there is a chef in the Student Union restaurant whose job description forbids the use of "sharp objects" and "fire". Of course, there are (too) many other chefs there whose job descriptions DO allow for such use. It's a Rube Goldberg kinda country.

There are Circulation Clerks in the library who cannot "handle books" and one employee my partner has never even met because she's never worked a day since he's been there (going on three years now).

Again, I wish I were making this stuff up. I love Canada but this is one aspect of a general mindset here that never ceases to amaze and amuse this American ex-pat.

J. Carter Wood said...

I am...well, amazed. (And amused.)

Is this really Canadian? I wonder. I haven't lived in the US for over 7 years now (hard to believe when I think about it), but I have had the sense that this sort of thing -- health-and-safety rules gone berserk -- was also increasingly common there.

Britain seems obsessed by it.

It almost feels like a crazily anarchic act to do anything slightly risky, like getting on a chair to change a lightbulb.

Oh well. out there.

But not too careful.