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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 October 2005, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
'Ladies' banned in language guide
Matt Lucas and David Walliams as 'ladies' in Little Britain
Council workers have been told not to describe women as 'ladies'
Women are no longer ladies and older people are never senior citizens, according to equality officials at Hull City Council.

Council workers were stunned, and many offended, when they received an email warning them to mind their language.

In a list of unacceptable terms, girls, elderly, pet and love appeared next to words already widely recognised as being offensive, racist or homophobic.

The council has since said it should not have banded the terms together.

The guide to 'professionally appropriate language' was issued on behalf of the corporate equalities manager Julie Thomson.

It advises that traditional northern greetings such as duck, flower, dear or sweetheart are unacceptable and women should only ever be referred to as women.

'Offended and amused'

Likewise, older people are never senior citizens or wrinklies and disabled people should not be called wheelchair bound or infirm.

Liberal Democrat leader Carl Minns said the guide was a classic example of political correctness gone mad.

"My initial reaction was a mixture of being quite offended and quite amused," he said.

"I was offended because it was a blanket email and the implication was that I'm using inappropriate language and amused because it's a typical silly season story.

"But I think that by putting really offensive language next to words like ladies and elderly it cheapens the effect.

Clearly it caused offence to many people and for that I can only apologise
Acting head of Equalities, Alan McKenzie

"Any public organisation has to have a set of standards where it treats people courteously and efficiently but the way to do that is to treat people as individuals and be sensible about it," he said.

The council said the guide was based on a manual published by the TUC and Unison, entitled Diversity in Diction, Equality in Action.

"The guide highlighted older descriptions that have been, or are being, phased out of common use, as well as derogatory terms that are wholly unacceptable," a spokeswoman said.

"There is obviously a world of difference between these terms and the council accepts that these should not have been banded together under one 'catch all' heading of 'unacceptable'."

The acting head of equalities Alan McKenzie has since written to everyone who received the email to apologise "unreservedly".

"Clearly it caused offence to many people and for that I can only apologise."

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