A FEW years ago I had to chase the then-Rangers manager Ally McCoist along the Broomielaw, in Glasgow, for a comment.

I'd been sent down to Ibrox on Valentine's Day 2012 to report on the announcement administrators Duff and Phelps had been appointed. Despite knowing nothing about sport, I knew how to report a breaking story and so, to my great alarm, found myself for the next week our dedicated Rangers tax reporter.

So there was Ally, in the distance, and there was I needing a comment. Off I lolloped, all the while thinking of how I had no idea what I would ask him when I finally caught him up.

I admit... I may have slightly hammed up how out of puff I was in order to give myself a few more seconds to magic up a question.

I wasn't given a chance. Mr McCoist burled round and, patting me on the arm, said, "You need to work on your fitness, darling."

At the time, the punchline of this anecdote was the fact Super Ally had fat shamed me. That's what we cared most about then. It strikes me that now, six-years-on-Wednesday later, the issue would be the use of "darling". Middle aged sportsmen just can't be calling young women not of their acquaintance darling these days.

There will be three categories of response to this statement. Firstly, the group who think this is a positive development.

A second will be aware of the reasons behind the damning of "darling" but who would criticise those who scorn its use as virtue signalling. A third category would call the whole thing political correctness, while scoffing.

Justin Trudeau met with a fair amount of scoffing this week when he interjected while a woman was talking, lightheartedly correcting her for saying “mankind”, not “peoplekind”. Mr Trudeau has subsequently said he was making a "dumb joke" taken out of context. As Mr Trudeau's gaff made international headlines, the whole thing served as a lesson to men never to interrupt when a woman is speaking.

While the Canadian minister's use of language was an attempt to be on the side of right, there is no defence of Hugh Gaffney. The Scottish Labour MP for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill must have known that his choice of language - words I can't bring myself to repeat here, although The Herald has used them in news reports - was deeply offensive and yet he proceeded with his Burns Supper speech. It surely is offensive to his audience that he felt these old, mean words would entertain them.

But such casually racist and homophobic language was commonplace when I was young. I learned at school that these words were wrong and passed the message on to older relatives who used them without malice but without knowing things had moved on.

Language constantly moves on to match where we are as a society on a given topic. Trans rights are very much to the fore, especially as the Scottish Government is consulting on proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, and there is a slew of new phrases to be absorbed into every day use.

The ideal is to be inclusive, using language to make us think about the broader issues of how we treat and view other people. Language change can change attitudes. Recently I visited Shawlands Academy where LGBT pupils had spoken to teachers about how parts of school life made them feel excluded, for example social dancing where "boys" and "girls" are asked to partner up. It's now "leader" and "follower". A simple swap that makes a tangible difference.

Ten years on from her breakthrough hit I Kissed A Girl, the singer Katy Perry has said she would rewrite the lyrics. "We've really changed, conversationally, in the past 10 years," she said. "We've come a long way."

We're changing conversationally all the time, which is absolutely right. As a journalist, you must keep abreast of these changes. It's not too difficult to check with relevant charities: Zero Tolerance provides a Handle With Care guide for reporters writing about violence against women and girls; the Samaritans provides guidelines for reporting a death by suicide; Stonewall has a useful glossary for LGBT terms. There are words we used to use in newspapers that we simply can't now.

There's a balance, of course, between using "correct" language and allowing one group - which might not know best - dictate what is "correct" and what is not. A real issue is when well-meaning changes become divisive and exclusionary and instead of opening debate, close it down instead.

There was a high-profile call last year for a New York Times journalist to be sacked after it was felt he had used inappropriate language in a piece about Chelsea Manning, the politician, activist and trans woman. There is a difference between the rightly obsolete language used by Hugh Gaffney and that used by people who just haven't caught up yet.

Words can, and do, hurt but patience and guidance are needed to make sure everyone arrives on the same page.