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Latest office politics row sees exam chiefs telling male civil servants they must stop ‘hepeating’

You may – or may not – have come to terms with such workplace sins as ‘mansplaining’ or ‘microaggressions’.

But now there’s a new offence in the minefield of office politics: ‘hepeating’.

The term has been coined to describe the act of a man hijacking an idea previously suggested by a woman – then getting all the credit for it. And now civil servants have been warned not to do it.

‘Hepeating’ has been coined to describe the act of a man hijacking an idea previously suggested by a woman – then getting all the credit for it (stock photo used)

The portmanteau of ‘he’ and ‘repeating’ appears to have been invented in 2017 by friends of American physics professor Nicole Gugliucci, whose tweet defining the term went viral.

Although the word has yet to make it into the Oxford English Dictionary, staff working for exam regulator Ofqual have introduced it in an internal handbook.

The 28-page book, obtained by The Mail on Sunday under Freedom of Information legislation, describes ‘hepeating’ as ‘a situation where a man repeats a woman’s comments or ideas and then is praised for them as if they were his own’.

But not everyone is impressed by the term.

Jeremy Black, emeritus professor of history at the University of Exeter, called it an ‘ugly new made-up word that’s foolish and devoid of meaning,’ and added: ‘It should play no role in educational advice.’

Broadcaster Dame Joan Bakewell said: ‘I am rapidly losing touch. Soon I won’t be able to function as a journalist in anything but The Oldie and school reunion magazines.’

Although the word has yet to make it into the Oxford English Dictionary, staff working for exam regulator Ofqual have introduced it in an internal handbook (stock photo used)

Although the word has yet to make it into the Oxford English Dictionary, staff working for exam regulator Ofqual have introduced it in an internal handbook (stock photo used)

And award-winning author Dame Margaret Drabble added: ‘I’d never heard of this word. It hasn’t really caught on probably because it’s such an ugly word and not a very useful concept.’

The new word joins a growing feminist glossary for male misbehaviour alongside ‘mansplaining’: the patronising way a man will explain something to a woman, assuming she is ignorant.

Other terms include ‘manologue’ (a man speaking at great length while women are waiting to contribute); ‘bropropriating’ (a slight variation on ‘hepeating’, where a man deliberately steals a woman’s idea); and ‘manterrupting’ (the unnecessary interruption of a woman).

Last night, an Ofqual spokesman said the glossary was a ‘resource and guide for staff’ rather than a ‘prescriptive document’, adding: ‘This glossary is drawn from civil service guidance and other public and private sector sources.’

KATHY LETTE: We use 350 more words than men. No wonder they are ALWAYS copying us…

Is it time to take the ‘men’ out of Mensa? What with mansplaining, manspreading and now hepeating, fellas are definitely looking like the inferior sex right now.

‘Hepeating’ is where a man repeats a woman’s comments, jokes or ideas and is then praised for them as if they were his own.

Well, you can’t have all work and no plagiarism, right?

Kathy Lette (pictured) writes: 'In my experience, point out that a woman mentioned the same idea or made the same joke previously and you'll be accused of growing a whole vineyard of sour grapes'

Kathy Lette (pictured) writes: ‘In my experience, point out that a woman mentioned the same idea or made the same joke previously and you’ll be accused of growing a whole vineyard of sour grapes’

Sorry, did you hear what I just said? Wait. Imagine it’s being said again but in a booming male baritone. Now I’ve got your attention, haven’t I?

Every woman I know has experienced this infuriating phenomenon, especially in the office.

A woman will say something creative and clever in a meeting and the boss won’t react.

A split second later a male colleague will utter the exact same sentiment and be wildly applauded for his originality and brilliance. Maybe even promoted.

And not just in the boardroom. It happens at dinner parties, constantly.

I was breaking bread with some North London pals when the hostess, a woman with a Dorothy Parker-esque penchant for tripling an entendre, made an excellent jest at her end of the table. But I was the only guest who laughed.

A minute later her husband bellowed out the same one liner from the other end of the table, and the male diners erupted into guffaws.

Ms Lette says 'hepeating'  doesn't just happen in the boardroom, but also 'at dinner parties, constantly' (stock photo used)

Ms Lette says ‘hepeating’  doesn’t just happen in the boardroom, but also ‘at dinner parties, constantly’ (stock photo used) 

They nearly had to be hospitalised from hilarity. His wife with the Wildean wit looked so crestfallen that I interrupted the chortling cacophony to point out that our host’s wife had made the same quip a moment or so earlier.

The host, a famous broadcaster, looked at me askance. ‘Everyone knows that women can’t tell jokes,’ he shrugged. ‘That’s because we marry them,’ I rejoindered.

At least his wife laughed. But I’ve been in social Siberia ever since.

In my experience, point out that a woman mentioned the same idea or made the same joke previously and you’ll be accused of growing a whole vineyard of sour grapes.

Which is why the female population tends to feign nonchalance, while silently fuming.

But girls, take heart! Ofqual, the exams quango, has advised its staff this is not appropriate behaviour.

When I told my male colleagues the news, they started grumbling about having their conversations policed.

But the women I know will be kicking up their metaphorical heels in delighted relief.

Hepeating may be the male trait currently rating highest on the female irk-ometer, but equally off-putting is a bloke with chronic correctile dysfunction.

My worse example of this macho posturing was at a book party. A literary lion was putting the bore into Bordeaux with an anecdote, concluding that the whole situation had been ‘a masterclass in condescension’.

He then turned to me, looked down his nose and mansplained: ‘Condescension – it means talking down to.’

Men get away with ‘hepeating’ because research shows that if a woman and a man start talking at the same time, the female invariably backs down, out of politeness.

And of course, this kind of sexism is not just sewn into our psyche, but also our vernacular.

A man who is good at his job is deemed a ‘go-getter’ – leadership material. A woman with the same qualities is too often dismissed as a ‘ball-breaker’, ‘an ambitious bitch’ or so catty she needs to pop down to the vets to get her claws trimmed.

These same verbal double standards are exacerbated when it comes to sex. A man with a strong libido is praised as a Romeo, a lothario, a stud muffin, a love god.

A woman with the same sexual appetites is dismissed as a slut, a tramp, a tart, a moll.

Many men still expect women to be virginal. ‘So tell me,’ a man will ask, ‘Am I the first man to make love to you?’ to which the woman replies, ‘Of course…I don’t know why you men keep asking the same silly question?’

Men may be physically stronger but women are more verbally dexterous. Linguists maintain we use, on average, 350 more words than men in our daily vocabulary. 

Which means that in the battle of the sexes, a ‘hepeater’ is unarmed. All a woman has to do is shoot from the lip with a lethal one-liner to render him mute, stunned by quip-lash. I call it the black belt in tongue-fu.

So girls, if you have something important, witty or insightful to say, say it loud and proud. If a fella ‘hepeats’ it, just reply: ‘I’m so glad you took my idea to heart…But there’s no need to be reparteedious.’


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