Language is a wonderful thing: constantly evolving and introducing us to new words and ways of expressing ourselves.
Every year, usually on an exceptionally slow news day, the nation’s press prints any new additions to the Oxford English Dictionary, which usually derive from textspeak or TV programmes and quite often have only been uttered by a very select few, perhaps within earshot of an open window at the OED. It’s a harmless PR exercise, really, and nobody is suggesting these new words will be anywhere near the dictionary in even a few months’ time.
But occasionally the evolution of language should be curbed. While buzzwords and slogans help us communicate more easily, especially over 140 characters, if there is one tiny phrase that makes my teeth itch and my brain burn in irrational fury it’s the detestable “man up”.
Man up. What can it mean? I first heard it a few years ago and found it vaguely amusing. It’s the natural successor, I guess, to “grow a pair”, which in itself took “grow a spine” and “get a backbone” away from the vertebrae and into the groin.
Getting a backbone, however, didn’t associate courage or hardiness with being a man. Now, however, if you’re not coping very well with something, are ill or just don’t want to do something – all situations which can elicit a ‘man up’ from a helpful passer-by – you’re seen as the opposite of masculine. Sometimes, you just want to say: “I’m fucked. I’m depressed. I’m drowning. Am I alone?” But you can’t. You’re a man, baby. Not a baby, man.
You can only be more masculine if you accept things and battle on, irrespective of feelings, be they your own or anyone else’s.
And women are saying it too, even to each other. Facebook updates and Twitter posts are littered with people encouraging each other to “man up'” It’s replacing stalwarts like “get well soon” and “I must just get on with it” or “mustn’t grumble”.
If admitting you’re having a bit of difficulty is the opposite of manly, then I have never been so pleased to be a lady. Shove your “Masc4Masc” garbage right up as far it can go. At least I’m not a closed-off, emotional weirdo who uses zingy catchphrases to avoid talking about his feelings. Man up? Man off.
And, as author Matt Haig says: ” Suicide is officially the biggest killer of men under 50, and we still don’t like to talk about it. Let’s not man up. Let’s speak out.”
And don’t get me started on manbags or, horror upon absolute horror, mankles. I mean, seriously:
Guys, can we only get behind something or involved in a product if it contains the word “man”? Really? Are we that dumb?
Mansplaining, though, I actually like. I get it. It’s good shorthand for calling out a man behaving like a dickhead and talking down to (or over) women. It’s also a handy way to check yourself when interacting with anyone. “Am I mansplaining this? Should I maybe shut up and let this other person speak?”
Manspreading, too. Get over it, boys – your bad behaviour now has a name. And it doesn’t include the word ‘lad’.
“Manflu”, however, is another one I can’t abide. I come to dread getting a cold because as soon as I feel that first sniffle, I know I’ll be accused of over-egging it because of my terminal “manflu”.
I know I don’t have flu; I know what that’s like. You can’t get out of bed. Your head feels like it is full of bricks. That is flu. It’s “man up” territory all over again. I’m not allowed to be ill – let alone whinge about it – because I am supposed to be a “bloke”.
No. I just have a cold. I don’t want your sympathy, nor do I need your “manflu” crap.
What I do want is for you to catch this cold off me – that’ll show you.