COMMENT:

It was only a matter of time until Scrabble was branded "offensive". The most priggish board game in history does involve words, after all – and right now words are more loaded and dangerous than an AR-15.

A complete cancellation of the elements of speech and writing that have allowed us to communicate and evolve since circa 3400 BCE seems to be the endgame.

And with estate agents now banned from using the term "master bedroom", "manholes" generally agreed to be sexist and even the word "woman" – just ask JK Rowling – considered problematic, it might be easier to do away with words altogether.

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We could then return to the use of hieroglyphics (or "emojis", as they're now called), and reduce every human expression and emotion to either a flamenco-dancing woman or a sad face. But if we're ever to reach that Zenith of civilisation, we're going to have to push on with gradually eroding our language.

Now, none of us is going to miss the racial slurs the World English Scrabble Players Association were "debating" whether to ban – it's true. And many will be surprised that racist and homophobic terms such as the "w-word", the "n-word" and the "q-word" were still included in the official 2020 Scrabble Dictionary.

But it couldn't just stop there, could it? Not when the association's American counterpart has already put together a list of 238 words to be removed from the official Scrabble dictionary. Not when "virtue signalling" is the top-scoring term of the day.

Separated into seven categories – "slur", "anatomical", "political", "profane", "prurient", "scatological", and "vulgar" – the US Scrabble words to be banned include everything from common abuse to obscure aspersions few of us have even heard of, let alone thought to spell out on the Scrabble board: "HAOLE", "CULCHIE", anyone?

There are a few I didn't, in my naivety, realise were disparaging on the list – "JESUIT", "PAPIST" – and both in the US and the UK, sexist and ageist terms like "GREYBEARD" and "WRINKLIES" are likely to be expunged from our new world order.

Wait a second: "WRINKLIES"? Well it's not very nice to make fun of a person's collagen degradation, is it? And having been accused of "literally playing games with hate" in the mid-1990s for including the word "JEW" in the US Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, Hasbro, the game's owner, seems to have decided to recast itself as our global moral arbiter – alongside so many other companies and individuals on both sides of the pond – cancelling not just racism and bigotry (sublime), but anything that might be deemed even vaguely negative (ridiculous).

That, right there, is when we stop progressing and start regressing. Arguments are muddied to the point of people forgetting (or, worse, resenting) the crucial points made at the start: in a matter of days we've gone from Black Lives Matter to the importance of eradicating the word "WRINKLIES" from a board game. And what do gagged people do when they rip that gag off? They spew bile.

I've lost count of the number of readers who have written to me over the years asking what they are "allowed to say" these days. As though they didn't get the "banned words" memo. As though someone – perhaps Hasbro or Merriam-Webster – had circulated a new lexicon of righteousness that they weren't allowed to see.

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When my generation feels just as baffled, just as perma-guilty, and just as angry that we're all speaking in whispers and bloopers: that a single "wrong" word may lead to us being "cancelled" as human beings.

Just the other day a friend was told off by her teenage daughter for using the word "tramp". "Not cool," she was warned with an eye roll. "Dual ethnic heritage" instead of "mixed race"; "actress" in favour of "actor", and "teachers" are no more: it's "educators" now. Do keep up.

Hours before my husband and I were due to dine out with Kevin Pietersen and his wife on Super Saturday night, the cricketer was quite literally "cancelled" by Twitter for joking that he would "slap" Piers when he saw him.

After immediately shutting down his account, Twitter messaged Pietersen to say: "You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so." Elsewhere on that very same hallowed platform, meanwhile, repulsive levels of racism and misogyny were allowed to rage on.

A zero-tolerance approach to linguistic micro-aggressions is the perfect, easy way for companies to feel good about themselves – while avoiding tackling any of the genuine horrors that may be going on in the background.

But if we allow the "cancel language" campaign to reach the frenzied levels of "cancel culture", we won't just end up poorer, but mired in a linguistic recession from which any form of recovery – V, W or L-shaped – can't be guaranteed.

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