The National Theatre of Scotland is now banning all use of the word “spooky” over its “racial connotations.”
The term is seldom used as a racially pejorative in the United States — let alone the United Kingdom — where it never took on the same connotations as the term “spook” did in the 1940s.
The Daily Record, a Scottish-based newspaper, was told by a source that the Scottish theatre, that although no one complained about the term “spooky,” management was concerned that the word could become problematic in the future.
“There’s been a lot of training and meetings since the [Black Lives Matter] movement and how [National Theatre Scotland] should change,” the source told the paper.
Staff were told that the word was flagged as a racist slur used during the Second World War. American soldiers often used the term “spook” to refer to black pilots, giving it an added dimension of racism.
“Spooky” is often synonymous with Halloween and other creepy things, much like the word “creepy” and refers to hauntings and ghosts. It was last used by the National Theatre of Scotland in 2016 for Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, and used to describe a “spooky location.”
Following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, businesses and organizations like the National Theatre of Scotland have become increasingly vigilant about language and problematic terms for fear of offending activists and the hyper-sensitive.
“It might seem mad but [National Theatre Scotland] is committed to fighting racism so need to be extra careful in the language it uses,” said the source to the Daily Record. “It’s always been a really white organization but it is trying to change that and become more diverse.”
“There might not be many people who know that ’spooky’ can also be used as racist but, even if it’s one person who is offended, it’s one person too many,” the source added.
The Daily Record reports that the Glasgow-based theatre has campaigned on racial justice since 2020. The organization publishes details about the ethnicity, gender, and disability status of its board members and staff.
The latest figures show that 91 per cent of its board of directors and 87 per cent of its core staff are white.
One of its latest productions includes Lament For Sheku Bayoh, which is performed by a cast of black women.
“The company will now always interrogate language choices on all materials to try to ensure that no offence or hurt is caused by inappropriate language or by words that have historically oppressive connotations,” said the theatre in a statement to the newspaper.