The word ‘gay’ is sometimes used disparagingly. Get over it.

People have used the word 'gay' disparagingly for decades. They were doing it when I was in school. They are evidently still doing it now, because Stonewall and Mumsnet have teamed up to try and discourage it.

They launched a campaign against the use of the word today with the unimpressive strapline:

'That's so gay' Um, actually it probably isn't.

Both organisations are promoting the campaign on social media this morning with the equally irritating hashtag #GetOverIt.

Campaigners are by nature optimistic, empowered people who believe they can change the world. In this case they have overestimated their influence.

Language is a complicated, fluid thing, dependent on the individual habits and circumstances of millions of people. The French have lost all their optimism and empowerment while watching the Académie Française try to control their language, with all the obvious disappointments such a process entails.

Efforts to control language from above are like trying to hammer water. It cannot be done. To believe one could do so reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of language.

The pejorative use of the word gay is a complicated development. It has been so popular – and is now so disconnected from what it originally referred to – that I know several gay people who use it in this context.

Language campaigners cannot compute this complex phenomenon. For them, negative words must be wiped out, because some people are hurt or offended by them. They come to the debate from a good place, a principled place, and are to be commended for it. Unfortunately their solutions are impossible, counter-productive and simplistic.

Stonewall will have no success convincing children to change their language. Typically school pupils have little interest in the views of lobby groups. In so far as the campaign has any effect it will alienate them from the organisation and reduce its credibility as it is reduced to the status of a po-faced language matron. At its worse, it could create the impression that gay kids are humourless and deserving of scorn.

But even if the campaign could be successful, it would not be desirable.

The complex way in which 'gay' is used, like 'paki', or 'slut', or 'queer', does not correspond to the simple viewpoint of Mumsnet and Stonewall. It is not always a term of abuse. It is now about as connected to homosexuality as the word 'bastard' is to paternal lineage.

I know several women who would consider themselves feminists who might describe a dress as 'slutty'. I know many Pakistanis – and their white friends – who use the word 'paki' as a jokey insult, akin to using the word 'dick'. And the word 'queer' is much further down the scale, having now been almost entirely appropriated by the gay community. Perhaps the language police need to ensure these groups also satisfy their narrow understanding of how people are supposed to talk.

A simplistic, censorious approach to language is a depressing distraction from the real issues facing gay people in the UK and around the world. Anti-gay bullying, which Stonewall has commendably focused on in recent years, would be better dealt with by a focus on the substantive issue – namely, bullying. Where the word gay is being used bullyingly, it is the bullying which is the problem, not the word. 

The exclusive focus on language is a prime attribute of identity politics, a form of campaigning which is more interested in Twitter spats than actually helping the people it purports to care about.

It is a shame to see two decent organisations embark on such a misguided strategy.