Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Public editor: The need to understand the context of words and how they evolve

Last week, TV columnist John Doyle wrote a column criticizing the CBC's new show Great Canadian Baking Show.

As a TV critic, he was not overly impressed by this re-make of a British show. "If you're a fan of The Great British Bake Off, you will not feel bamboozled, but you might feel bewildered by the reverential copying."

In discussing the judges, he wrote: "Both are a tad stiff and nervous and little wonder – at any moment, they know they might be swarmed by the feyness of [co-host Dan] Levy and the tweeness of [co-host Julia] Chan.

Story continues below advertisement

In a social media post, Mr. Levy said that while he acknowledges criticism of cultural matters, as a "proud gay man, being criticized for my 'feyness' (defined by Merriam-Webster as 'campy' and 'precious') in today's Globe and Mail struck me as offensive, irresponsible and homophobic…."

Mr. Doyle was not aware that Mr. Levy was gay and he used the term to mean preciousness.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary doesn't seem to suggest a slur (other definitions: doomed, visionary, excessively refined, quaintly unconventional), but it is clear in terms of the reaction, especially on social media, that some people, notably in the gay community, disagree. Lesson learned that you cannot rely on dictionaries alone. We need to understand not just the context of words, but how they evolve and are viewed by communities that may be justly sensitive to a range of meanings. In any case, this word should not be used knowingly in any reference to LGBTQ people.

Editor-in-chief David Walmsley said "we caused unintended offence and for that we apologize."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

If your comment doesn't appear immediately it has been sent to a member of our moderation team for review

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading…

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.