Saturday, December 4, 2021
HomeCulture WarsSome of us still believe in spooks

Some of us still believe in spooks

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THE religious significance of Hallowe’en was diluted decades ago. But now it transpires that what was left of it for children, enjoyment, is now also to be diminished.  

Like vampires exsanguinating a victim, the fun-sucking luvvies of the entertainment industry have banned the word ‘spooky’ from any productions over the Hallowe’en season. 

And where else could this possibly have happened but that joyless queendom north of Hadrian’s Wall where Nicola Sturgeon and her thought police have manifested themselves in the shape of the National Theatre of Scotland.  

These self-appointed guardians of cerebral activity and normal human intercourse have decided that, as the word ‘spook’ has racial connotations, it cannot be uttered lest anyone is offended. 

Of course, the ‘anyone’ in this instance is not someone black. To my knowledge, nobody of colour complained about the use of the words spook or spooky. It is in case the sensitive, woke snowflakes of the Scottish chattering classes are offended. And God save us from that. The last thing they need is another excuse to be offended. 

As ever, a solution is being proposed to a problem that does not exist. That is, the problem did not exist until they created it. Who knew that the word spook had racial connotations … until these people told us?  

Now that society is sensitised to it, this is another word that is added to the proscribed list and yet another excuse to social media-mob and call for the cancellation of anyone careless enough to use it. 

This is not, in fact, the first time that the word spook has been brought to our attention as a potential racial slur. National Public Radio in the United States did run a feature in October 2017 on the word, pointing out that spook ‘can refer to a ghost. It can refer to a spy. But as many of us know, it’s also, sometimes, a racial slur for black people’.  

Did many of us know? Despite explaining that the word ‘comes from the Dutch word for apparition, or spectre’ only later being used in some circumstances to be applied to black people, they still concluded ‘it’s more fun to be aghast, bloodcurdled, or spine-chilled than “spooked.”’ 

In 2020, Newseek ran an article inaccurately referring in the headline to the ‘racist origins’ of the word spooked. The origins were not racist, and the magazine compounded this, saying: ‘There are connotations associated with the word “spooky” that are much more horrifying than the ghosts to which the term usually refers.’  

And for anyone sensible, that should be an end to the issue. The word is ‘usually’ used to refer to ghosts so what, exactly, is the problem? Nobody I know uses the word spooky to refer to black people. Certainly not the spookily (sorry, spine-chillingly)-dressed local children who knock at my door at Hallowe’en. 

And Scooby Doo, the doped-up cartoon dog which children love, never used spooky as a racial slur. Each episode had a spooky aspect to it and some, such as Scooby Doo and the Spooky Swamp, even used the word in the title. In fact, nobody of colour appeared in any Scooby Doo episodes I watched as a child. If anything, Scooby Doo could be criticised for its lack of inclusivity and diversity. 

But before I give the offence archaeologists any ideas, I wish everyone a happy and a Holy Hallowe’en. I also hope some bloodcurdling, spine-chilling and yes, spooky, kids knock at your door. 

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Roger Watson
Roger Watson is a Professor of Nursing.

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