Have you ever told a boy to "man up" or called a girl a "princess"?

A language guide designed to expose hidden meanings in common phrases wants a ban on sayings including "boys will be boys" and "it takes two to tango", according to news.com.au.

The Excuse Interpreter, released as part of the Government's $30 million "Stop it at the Start" campaign against domestic violence, claims that certain expressions absolve disrespectful behaviour towards young women.

The pamphlet explains that "he picks on you because he likes you" sends the message to girls that they "shouldn't get upset" when boys insult them, and tells boys such behaviour is OK.


It says comments such as "he's going through a phase" and "he didn't know he was doing anything wrong" accept aggression as just part of being a boy.

The guide explains that when we use phrases such as "it takes two to tango" and "she probably provoked him" we shift the blame on to girls.

It also says we reinforce outdated ideas of how men and women should behave by unthinkingly using gender stereotypes in everyday life.

For example, we need to stop asking boys "who wears the pants?" and telling them "boys don't cry" and we need to avoid calling girls "bossy", "feisty", "know-it-alls" or "tomboys".

The guide, originally published a year ago, has provoked a backlash among some commentators who say that changing our language will not stop male-on-female violence later in life.

Centre for Independent Studies senior research fellow Jeremy Sammut told news.com.au "people who think our biggest problem is policing language need to take their social conscience for a walk."

He said the guide was "tokenistic" and would have little effect on men who might go on to be violent towards their partners.

"Everyone agrees language should be respectful, but whether you're dealing with the issue that drives domestic violence is the debate we should be having," he said.

"The idea you can change attitudes with linguistic retraining and turn them into this generation of New Age guys is ridiculous."

Dr Sammut said we should prioritise other issues, such as people blaming mental illness or drug use for their behaviour.

"We tend to address the lowest hanging fruit of language and attitudes creating domestic violence," he said.

"It often becomes a way for people to virtue signal, the equivalent of wearing a ribbon."

A spokeswoman for Minister of Social Services Christian Porter told news.com.au: "The Stop it at the Start campaign is one element of a national, long-term strategy to reduce violence against women and their children. It is underpinned by the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

The $30 million campaign is designed to help break the cycle of violence against women and their children by targeting the disrespectful attitudes and behaviours adults might dismiss or ignore in young people."

She said the campaign was informed by extensive research that found a clear link between violence towards women and gender inequality, beginning with disrespectful behaviour that is often overlooked by adults.

The guide was developed by the Department of Social Services in consultation with parenting experts, child psychologists, a behavioural change expert and the Department of Education and was concept-tested on the target audience - adults in a position of influence for young people aged 10-17.