It’s been global find-and-replace time again at the nationals over the past couple of days as the columnists check the “” Word template out of the their publications’ databases in response to the detention of former football star Paul Gascoigne under the Mental Health Act. They haven’t had to do that since “Bestie” died.

The Times Website is flaky today, but, when it’s working, one of the things it’s been displaying over its banner has been a quote from Rod Liddle’s views on the descent of Gascoigne:

“Gazza has not uttered a sentient thought in his entire life”

I suppose Liddle thinks “sentient” means “wise” or “insightful”. It doesn’t. It means:

“conscious; capable of sensation; aware; responsive to stimulus.”

[Chambers Dictionary]

Sentience is pretty damned low on the scale of central nervous system activity. A sea cucumber is sentient. Whatever else you think about the woman-beating buffoon, Paul Gascoigne is at least smarter than an invertebrate. Simply by being able to “utter” anything at all he lives at altitude in Nature’s range of sentience.

“Sentient” is one of Liddle’s favourite words—at least five of his articles are returned in the top ten hits when you search the Times site—so you’d think he might spare a few seconds to look it up online at least, where the first definition cited by Google sets an even lower threshold:

“endowed with feeling and unstructured consciousness”

Plenty of people would say that, far from being beyond him, being “endowed with feeling and unstructured consciousness” was a pretty accurate description of most of the thoughts Gascoigne has uttered to date. Liddle might want to look up “consummate” and “insouciance” as well. Using big words doesn’t make you clever.

And if you’re not sick of opinionists generalizing about entire sexes already then Melanie Reid is in full Polly Filler/Glenda Slagg/Sally Jockstrap mode, wibbling on in the same newspaper about how “women”, unlike “men”, see nothing attractive at all about Gascoigne’s alcoholism. As if it isn’t enough that doomed love for alcoholics is so common that there are support groups and a specific psychobabble label for it, Reid foolishly uses the example of George Best, a man who, right up until his sorry end, had no difficulty attracting the devoted attentions of glamorous women many years his junior, women who, presumably, could bag themselves men less “sad” and “ruined”.

Newspaper opinion pieces about fallen sport stars: on one side you have illiterates being paid silly money for rubbish performances; and on the other side you have fallen sports stars.