Reaction Weekend

Why Cambridge must go beyond virtue signalling with its review of slavery

BY Simon Targett   /  3 May 2019

I know I’m not “transgender”. But, until this week, I had no idea I was “cisgender”. That’s the neologism that describes people whose gender identity matches their assigned birth identity—in other words, most of us. The prefix “cis”—from the Latin for “on the side of”—is used as a contrast to “trans” or “on the other side of”.

It was coined by academics in the 1990s, but it was only formally accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015, and this week, Scrabble, the word game, gave it  the ultimate recognition by including it in the latest edition of the Official Scrabble Words dictionary published by Collins.

But if “cisgender” was one of the trendy words of the week (along with a host of others accepted by Scrabble, such as “genderqueer”, “omnishambles”, “fatbergs” and “manspreading”), the phrase of the week was surely “virtue signalling”. This, of course, has been around for a while. It is a pejorative term that describes the action of expressing, in a conspicuous but ultimately vacuous way, an allegiance to trendy social mores.

But, as if by magic, the phrase turned up in a host of articles connected with the announcement by Cambridge University


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