The Daily Telegraph

Way of the World Michael Deacon


Calling JK Rowling “transphobi­c” has always been patently absurd. Yet, despite the complete lack of evidence, many young progressiv­es remain furiously convinced that she is. And this week, their fixation reached farcical new heights.

In Canada, we learnt, a 23-year-old bookbinder called Laur Flom has been removing Ms Rowling’s name from second-hand copies of the Harry Potter books – and then selling them on, with special, Rowling-free cover designs. Apparently, the bookbinder – whose preferred pronouns are “they/them” – is doing this to create a “safe space” for progressiv­es to read the Harry Potter stories without being traumatise­d by the sight of the author’s name.

I don’t know whether Ms Rowling could sue this bookbinder. But even if so, I hope she doesn’t. Because I’ve got a much better idea.

She should get her own back – by offering “safe space” editions of the books herself.

Incredibly, the bookbinder is selling these Rowling-free editions of the Potter stories for the eye-popping price of £140 each. So, in order to take advantage of this exciting new market for self-righteous nitwits with more money than sense, Ms Rowling should simply Tippex her name off copies of her books – and offer them for sale at the bargain price of £139.

Normal editions of the books sell for only £7.99. So this means she can make an extra £131.01 per copy.

Better yet, she could order a job lot of cheap blank notepads from Ryman or WH Smith, and then sell them on at, say, £500 each. These, she could explain, are the ultimate “safe space” editions of the Harry Potter series. Because not only do they not contain her name, they don’t contain any of her words, either.

Among the progressiv­e

Left, they should sell like hot cakes.

The contest has been hard fought. The competitio­n has been stiff. In the end, however, there can be only one winner. The title of Britain’s wokest university has to go to Aberdeen. Over the past year, staff at Aberdeen University have been urgently adding trigger warnings to great works of literature, for fear that their contents may distress sensitive undergradu­ates. They’ve done it to A Tale of Two Cities (“contains scenes of violence, execution and death”), Beowulf (“particular­ly graphic representa­tions of violence”), Julius Caesar (“centres on a murder”) and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped (“contains depictions of kidnapping”). They even added a trigger warning to a module on French (“Potentiall­y challengin­g topics are engaged with across the course, from the texts to be understood or translated to the topics discussed in oral classes and videos studied”).

Of course, plenty of other British universiti­es use trigger warnings of this kind. This week, however, Aberdeen has blown its rivals out of the water. First, by adding a trigger warning to Peter Pan (“emotionall­y challengin­g” because of its “perspectiv­es on gender”). And second, in a dazzling coup de grâce, by adding a trigger warning to a Russian ballet – because it features the death of a puppet. Magnificen­t. Congratula­tions to all involved.

Despite winning the British title, however, Aberdeen has a long way to go before it can be crowned the wokest university in the world. At present, it simply can’t hope to compete with its leading counterpar­ts in America.

This week, for example, the University of South California’s school of social work announced that it will no longer use the word “field” – because it has “connotatio­ns” with slavery. In America, after all, many slaves were put to work in fields. To avoid distressin­g any “descendent­s of slavery”, therefore, the university will replace the phrase “field of study” with the word “practicum”.

Outstandin­g work. I fear, however, that the staff haven’t thought it through. This is because “practicum” is a Latin word – and the ancient Romans kept countless millions of slaves. Indeed, they kept slaves of every ethnicity. The use of a Roman word like “practicum”, therefore, risks traumatisi­ng all students, irrespecti­ve of race. Each time they hear their tutor say it, they will be terrified that, at any moment, a Roman legion could invade the campus and force them all to build an aqueduct.


fascinatin­g study by researcher­s at University College London has demonstrat­ed that the old cliché really is true: men who drive flash cars genuinely do tend to be insecure about the size of their genitals.

Bad news for the men who drive those cars. But even worse news for their manufactur­ers. Because the consequenc­es are obvious.

For fear of embarrassm­ent, rich men will stop buying flash cars. Instead, to prove to the world that they have absolutely no insecuriti­es about the size of their genitals, they’ll start buying the least flash vehicles possible.

Successful businessme­n will try to impress their dates by picking them up in a clapped-out Reliant Robin. Millionair­es will trade in their Ferraris for hatchbacks. Cristiano Ronaldo will start riding a tricycle.

At any rate, the study should have at least one beneficiar­y. A key reason for the decline of the British car industry was that, compared with foreign models, many of the cars we produced were deemed to be small and shabby.

Now, though, our car industry can expect to enjoy a spectacula­r rebirth. Because every footballer in the Premier League will be gagging to buy an Austin Allegro.

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