There’s 2 things about language – there’s the meaning of words used and then there’s the intent – how a word is used. So we need to think about both.
Words- have their basic meaning, but depending how they are regularly and repeatedly used they can come to mean something other than the root meaning. The word ” sectarianism” is a classic example, what it means to a lot of people in Scotland, is not exactly the same thing as the dictionary definition – but that word has come to mean a certain thing to a lot of us (‘tho we could go on all day about that, it means different things to different people, and I think what some people use this word to describe has even shifted a bit in the last couple of years – for example in the same sentence people now talk about domestic abuse and managers and assistant managers of football clubs having a bit of a barney when their emotions are running high – for others it’s completely abut religious intolerance) So, for example, if we’re out doing an awareness- raising workshop we do a bit at the beginning about – what is sectarianism? Because people have different ideas and experiences. It’s one of the reasons why it’s a hard thing to challenge – well, that’s also difficult because people put a lot of effort into defending their intolerant stand-point, not recognising prejudice for what it is and the impact it can have whatever their passionate and long justification is.
Even the Scottish Government don’t have a definition, which in turn probably makes it difficult to have discussions about or do work on effectively addressing the issue. Some people take their informed view on things from the newspapers they read, so this varies.
So there is the meaning of words, they can come to mean something different over time when repeatedly used in a certain way. There are other words we can probably think of like this. Then there is how words are used – if someone uses a word to cause offence to you, it’s usually pretty obvious. Or if someone you have a half-decent relationship with uses a word in a non offensive way, attempting humour, then that’s usually petty obvious too. But then one persons idea of what’s offensive and what’s funny will also vary greatly as we know – which is where the problem can lie.
The use of the word ” hun” – people say it causes offence when it’s used to describe them, other people think it’s fine, we all hear it used to descried Rangers supporters and some of them don’t like it.
Here is some of the background/meaning of the word;
A member of a tribe – led by Attila the Hun -which invaded Europe in the 4th and 5th centuries
A barbaric or destructive person
A term of abuse for a German, especially a soldier of the First World War
A football follower.
Nothing to do with religion as far as we can see. Someone told me there was a Rangers match in Manchester in the 60s or 70s and there was a street riot, a Manchester paper carried a report that said ” they were like a herd of marauding huns”, and apparently that stuck as a description.
So Nil by Mouth’s opinion is that where we know certain words offend people, then we should consider avoiding using them. We know the “them” and “us” of football rivalry , we know how it goes with Celtic and Rangers fans so we know using that word doesn’t help the situation, perpetuates negativity, is often used as a negative or offensive description and so would advise against using it.
Put it this way – we talk to kids in schools about prejudice and intolerance and about the effect language has, so we ask them to have another think about using language that we know could offend people and which stereotypes people.
Sorry this is perhaps more rambling than what you were looking for. You’re probably right, I’m not aware either of any court taking a line on the use of this word, I guess they don’t rule on everything, so we can only offer you another opinion to add to your debate. But we choose what language we use, and we know that what offends one person won’t offend another, so people make their own judgement on what language they use and when, and it’s good if they think about the situation, the intent, and what offence they are causing or stereotypes they are perpetuating by their use of language.
In summary therefore, Hun is neither racist nor sectarian. It is often considered abusive by the recipient and is INTENDED as a term of abuse by the person using it. Moreover is that term of abuse leads to violence and threat to life, then a decent human being might want to consider whether it should be in their own vocabulary, but it’s not against the law.
Since most charges for anti-protestant abuse includes this term and are then dismissed, maybe someone would pass this on to Strathclyde Police.