There comes a times when every community, no matter whether it’s one based on religion, race, sexual orientation, political leaning or social standing, takes ownership of the debates being had around it and asserts its right to control the language others use in relation to them. Language is important. It can be used to create empathy, acceptance, tolerance or it can be used to sew division and hate. It can used to inspire. It can also be used to offend.
What am I about to write is going to sound ridiculous to some people.
But it isn’t, and in the end the view that I am about to express is going to have its day. There is no doubt about that in my mind. Because it’s the way of the way of the world.
We, as Celtic fans, have the right to choose our own term of reference. Our club has a distinct identity. We are not wrong to want to be treated in a way that reflects that. We are, in fact, entirely right to insist on it.
For years now, we have rejected the term “Old Firm.”
There are very few of us who use the expression, and I genuinely cannot understand those who do. The vast majority of our fans utterly abhor the term. The club itself pointedly refuses to use it.
There are those who will claim that we are just another half of Old Firm Inc.
That’s doing the work of the enemy because it’s simply not true. Even if you believe, as many do, that our club is content to stay a step ahead of them and no more, and that at Celtic there is a widely held belief that we “need” them, that’s not the same as viewing ourselves as the other head of the same coin, which is precisely what the expression “Old Firm” does.
We are not one half of anything. Even in the scenario outlined above, we are a separate thing, a club standing alone.
Even if we believe that our general health depends on some version of Rangers existing, that does not automatically make us “part” of them or them “part” of us. The “Old Firm” label links us together. No such link exists, whatever the internal policies and general mindset of those who run our club might be.
And without dispute, our club knows this full well and acts accordingly. Not only do we not use the term, but we’ve taken ownership of the term to make sure that nobody else can legitimately use it. We have opposed measures designed to market the term. Our club recognises that all it does is chains us to a basket case organisation which drags us down.
Furthermore, our club’s refusal to use the term, and the Celtic fan’s refusal to accept it, dates back before 2012. The liquidation of Rangers rendered it null and void, but we had stopped using it way before that.
The first Ibrox club was an utter embarrassment. It presented itself as the staunch defender of Britishness and narrow patriotism. Their fans were frequently in trouble in Europe for sectarian and racist singing and even, in Tel Aviv, Nazi salutes.
Our board recognised the utter toxicity of being seen as a mirror image of them, and so when the fans stopped using the term the club stopped using it too. The liquidation of Rangers consigned it to the grave permanently. Or at least it should have.
But the term is still in circulation, and this is no small part because their club fraudulently claims it and uses it and tries to goad us into doing it too, and Celtic won’t. The current Ibrox club is, if anything, even more abhorrent than the previous one, and the risks of being tied too tight to them are surely obvious to every single person at Parkhead.
Our fans have the right not be referred to as part of the odious twosome. Our club has the right not to be referred to as part of it. Yet every mainstream journalist in the country continues to do it. Former players continue to do it. The governing bodies have even done it on occasion, and they aren’t paying a blind bit of notice to our intense dislike of the phrase.
So, it’s time to drive the point home. From now on, whenever I hear the term used, I intend to complain. To do so vigorously, and I would urge that other people join me. The term is not only redundant, it is abhorrent. We all want nothing to do with it, but until we insist on it in a way that matters, we’re going to have to keep on hearing it.
I am going to write to the national broadcasters and media outlets on this issue whenever the use the term, and every single one of us should. Consign it to the bin once and for all. Insist – don’t just scorn the phrase but insist that we find it offensive, cheapening, demeaning and at its heart a complete misrepresentation. We are not two sides of anything.
Watch and see what progress we get by aggressively challenging the phrase.
Maybe we’ll get none. For now.
But if we keep it up and more of us do it, what choice are they going to have but to stop? Our complete repudiation of the term will send a clear message. That message should have been sent a long time ago. We’ve been passive on this.
It is high time we stopped messing about and drew this line in the sand.