The Language of Lateness

29 06 2010

Jenny is Late

Katie is Late

Shareen is Late

I am sick and tired of seeing these ladies’ lifestories depicted on billboards as I ride the escalators at the underground station day in, day out. For one, I don’t even know if they’re real. But here’s my big gripe:

They’re not late – they’re pregnant!

I have strong opinions on abortion. But laying those aside for the moment, forgetting the science, the ethics, the psychological effects of the procedure, and focusing purely on the marketing strategy behind those adverts – when I see those posters it makes me sick.

It’s the rhetoric that does it. The choice of words. How dare they take a highly complex, intricate, dare I say ‘miraculous’ biological process like ‘life’ and reduce it to an inane, everyday, pedestrian term like ‘late.’ Sure; they’re both monosyllabic, four letter L-words, but one connotes mystery – the other, the mundane.

Wordsmiths and rhetoricians need to understand better the power of their words. One word, but with so much latent potential. The pen truly is mightier than both the sword and syringe. As soon as you say ‘late’ you evoke feelings of negativity, frustration, personal inconvenience. Are they good grounds for termination?

I’m not saying that everybody who undergoes abortion does so out of such trivial motivations, and I don’t want to make light of the people who go through the agonising decision process under extreme circumstances. But tell me, how would those hypothetical, stock examples that are constantly thrown at pro-lifers, feel about having their traumatic circumstances described in such pedestrian terms?

Lynda was raped by a complete stranger, without any provocation. She is deeply traumatised and is undergoing extensive counselling. She feels that the child will be a constant reminder of her deeply upsetting experience.

Anna has being trying to conceive for many years. After finally succeeding, she has now discovered that her pregnancy poses a serious threat to her life. If she were to continue, she would face a high chance of dying in childbirth, and would likely lose the child also.

These, and other such examples, are regularly cited to show the apparent ‘inhumanity’ of pro-lifers, who would, presumably, argue that Lynda and Anna should not go through the abortion process. Lynda and Anna have endured awful experiences and need comfort, support, counselling, guidance, genuine love, acceptance, and impartial advice. They are both victims; one of an evil crime, and one of a twist of genetics. Or as Marie Stopes would put it – they are ‘late.’

I’m just saying, irrespective of your moral stance, it’s a totally inappropriate word to describe this life-changing experience! It justifies the trivial, and trivialises the painful. How many lives will be ruined, and children aborted because someone decided ‘late’ was a more acceptable term to describe the early stages of pregnancy? I plead for some common sense – for people to see through the rhetoric, and for the advertising companies to take responsibility for the power they wield.

And if the escalator ever grinds to a halt and I find myself with a sharpie to hand, I may dabble in a little rhetoric of my own:

Jenny has been inconvenienced, and has better things to do with her life

Katie never stopped to wonder if the loser she was sleeping with would stick around to raise a child

Shareen is in need of love, support and guidance




One response

29 06 2010
Phil Duncalfe


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