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Friday, March 23, 2007


It would not be an election if there was not some row about political correctness and bang on schedule David Davies AM MP obliges. This time it is over an Assembly Government memo that suggests that the use of the phrase "purdah" to describe the period of leading up to an election when politically contentious announcements should not be made is inappropriate as it may offend some ethnic minorities.

The Western Mail reveals that in Persian, "purdah" literally means "curtain" and refers to the practice of preventing men from seeing women. Apparently, it takes two forms - physical segregation of the sexes, and the requirement for women to cover their bodies and conceal their form. Purdah exists in various forms in the Islamic world and in India.

Dr Mohammad Seddon, of the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK at Cardiff University, tells us that its use in the corridors of power stems from the time of British imperialism and that therefore it may well give offence.

Surely there must be other issues the Tories can talk about, like their policies for example.
The words pyjamas and kedgeree stem from colonial times, too. That can't be the problem.

Purdah, the practice, is more objectionable than the now common use of 'purdah' in perfectly ordinary English. Purdah, for example, was practised far more recently - in Afghanistan under the Taliban Let's see someone write a memo condemning that.

Surely there might be other issues the Tories can talk about - and surely there might be other matters for Assembly Government civil servants to send memos about.

Then again...
What is wrong with "purdah"? It is a picturesque and apt metaphor for the Chancellor in his immediate pre-budget state. I can't think of anything better.

As the Western Mail suggests, purdah (like the head-to-toe covering of women) as a custom predates Islam and is independent of the faith. So how can referring to it offend religious sensibilities?

- Frank Little
If "purdah" is acceptable, then is it also acceptable to say that someone has "welshed" on a deal ?

To me they are just words that have been changed from their original meaning. I just wondered what others thought.
The phrase is usually qualified as 'pre-budget purdah', or 'pre-election purdah' in order to give context.

It is difficult to come-up with an English language equivalent term (isolation, seclusion, cloister) that conveys the meaning without being too much of a mouthful.

The US system probably lacks any equivalent, but I wonder what the accepted terminology is in Australian?
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