Posts tagged English usage
One thing is certain about life in Bristol: it’s quite unlike living anywhere else and can sometimes be well beyond the borders of the surreal.
This feeling is enhanced by reading the Bristol Post, city’s newspaper of (warped) record.
Just skimming casually through the Post website, readers may easily miss some real exclusives, such as this fire brigade incident reported yesterday by Heather Pickstock, who is alleged to be the paper’s North Somerset reporter.
As shown in the screenshot above, Ms Pickstock informs readers as follows in this fine piece of creative writing:
Crews from Southmead, Temple, Kingswood, Hicks Gate, Bedminster and Pill were called at 9.46pm yesterday to reports of smoke billowing from the sixth floor of a high rise block a Littlecroft House, Pip Street, Eastville.
There’s just one thing wrong with the above sentence: it’s completely incorrect; there’s no Pip Street in Eastville and no high rise block called Littlecroft House either.
A research technique known to ordinary mortals, but not to Ms Pickstock, affectionately known as “5 minutes’ Googling” reveals there’s a a council tower block called Little Cross House in Phipps Street, Southville, a good four miles across the city from Eastville.
The Bristol area can breathe a sigh of relief that Ms Pickstock does not work as a call handler on the 999 emergency switchboard. 😉
Many of the phrases in common use in English have 2 sources: either the Bible (both the authorised King James version and earlier translations, such as those of Wycliffe and Tyndale. Ed.) and the pen of William Shakespeare.
Indeed, some lovers of the English language actually refer to it euphemistically as “the language of Shakespeare” when someone ignorant commits an indignity with it.
Today’s online edition of the Bristol Post/Live, the city’s newspaper of (warped) record has not difficulty in mangling some of the Bard of Avon’s actual words.
The misquoting of the Bard occurs in a promotional piece advertising a supermarket chain’s substantial breakfast. The piece itself was a cut and paste job lifted from the Post’s Trinity Mirror stablemate, the Manchester Evening News, which itself lifted the item from the Metro, a publication so downmarket its owners the Daily Mail have to give it away.
However, neither the MEN nor the Metro saw fit to misquote Shakespeare; that was a solo effort by the Temple Way Ministry of Truth.
The offending sentence is in the final passage shown in the above screenshot, i.e.:
The breakfast contains your entire daily allowance in one foul swoop, but it’s described as the perfect meal for those with a big appetite.
The actual words penned by Shakespeare are not “one foul swoop” but “one fell swoop” and occur in Macbeth, Act 4, scene 3, when Macduff hears that his family have been killed. Macduff remarks:
All my pretty ones?
Did you say all?—O hell-kite!—All?
What, all my pretty chickens, and their dam,
At one fell swoop?
“One fowl swoop” is occurs frequently as a variation to the misquotation.
Whether Shakespeare actually invented the phrase himself or was the first to write it down is a matter of debate. Even so, Macbeth was written in 1605, so even the Bard’s the phrase dates back over four centuries.
The adjective “fell” is archaic, meaning evil or cruel, so it’s unsurprising that it’s misquoted. Moreover, in its context tends to occur in literary works such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic “Lord of the Rings” (e.g. fell beasts).
This blog has previously documented the carnage on the highways caused by driverless vehicles (posts passim).
The Bristol Post, the city’s newspaper of warped record, has now discovered that driverless vehicles are not only responsible for so-called “accidents“, but have now turned to theft – or attempted theft – as well.
If there’s one crumb of comfort to be gained from the above report, it is that our brave boys and girls in blue would have had no trouble spotting the offending vehicle with those American “license plates“. 😉
It’s official: the Bristol Post (or is it BristolLive? Ed.) is changing its name to the Manchester Evening News.
And the revelation comes in a piece from no less a personage than Mike Norton, the title’s editor in chief himself, and is hidden away in the details about the implications of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The relevant section is outlined in red in the image below. Click on the image for the full-sized version.
Whether production of the Post will be moved up north from the Temple Way Ministry of Truth is not mentioned.
Is Mike Norton guilty of copying and pasting without checking the actual wording?
In Private Eye’s immortal words: we should be told! 🙂
Q: Pictured below are 2 men: Winston Churchill, who some would argue was the greatest UK Prime Minister ever; and Piers Morgan, a man of no discernible talent apart from sycophancy to those on the extreme right wing of politics. What links them?
A: A cigar butt.
One of Churchill’s discarded cigar butts, to be precise.
Earlier this week, Piers Morgan bought said cigar butt at auction, as reported by the Shropshire Star.
Piers (affectionately renamed Piers Moron by Private Eye. Ed.) was so pleased with his purchase, he also tweeted about it.
Auctioneers Travanion & Dean of Whitchurch in Shropshire had been expecting the half-smoked historical artefact to sell for about £1,000.
Piers paid £2,600 for it.
Needless to say, the final bill would have been rather more than that once the auctioneers’ commission had been added.
He may have considered his action patriotic, but Piers’ action reminded your ‘umble scribe of an old adage, i.e. a fool and his money are soon parted.
That bit of folksy wisdom in turn set me researching its origins.
The King James version of the Bible published in 1604 has something similar to this saying in Proverbs 21:20, which states:
There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.
However, for a rendition slightly closer to the wording in question, one has to look at 1573’s Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie by Thomas Tusser, reproduced below:
A foole & his money,
be soone at debate:
which after with sorow,
repents him to late.
The form of words commonly used in the present proverb were first just over a decade after Tusser. In 1587 Dr. John Bridges writes the sentence below in Defence of the Government of the Church of England:
If they pay a penie or two pence more for the reddinesse of them..let them looke to that, a foole and his money is soone parted.
Read the screenshot below and do so carefully.
After reading the actual story, I found no mention of pictures being thrown into the River Severn in Ironbridge by vandals.
Did it actually happen? Or did the dread ambiguity that plagues so much modern journalism strike again?
When I was learning/being taught to write so many decades ago, we were always advised to steer clear of anything that could be misconstrued.
That concept is now obviously regarded as old-fashioned and no longer worthwhile by those who write today’s media (sometimes with the digital equivalent of a crayon. Ed. 😉 )
Today’s Graunaid reports on the establishment of a new Tory think tank, erroneously called “Onward“.
However, it is firmly denied that this anodyne moniker is meant in any way to be an echo of “En Marche!“, the movement that propelled the right-of-centre Emmanuel Macron to power in France (and Andorra; he’s also the ex-officio co-prince of the Pyrenean principality. Ed.).
Those at the centre of the launch in the Gruaniad’s eyes are Scottish Tory leader Ruth “tractor quotas” Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, and Michael Gove, the man with the most punchable face in British politics and alleged to be the UK’s current Secretary of State For Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
Leaving aside the sordid details of the think tank’s launch, which were given far too much attention for my mind by the Gruaniad, what struck your ‘umble scribe was the following phrase relating to the boy Michael:
Gove, the environment secretary, who has long been one of the party’s most influential thinkers,…
The plain truth is that thinking doesn’t come naturally to Michael. In a previous incarnation as Secretary of State for Education, he’s on record as not understanding what an average is or how it works in this oral reply to the House of Commons Education Committee in 2012:
…we expect schools not only to be judged on the level of raw attainment but also in terms of making sure that children are on track and are not falling back-and, indeed, do better than the average.
Meanwhile in his present post, he has in the past had difficulty in remembering which country he’s in, singing the praises of Welsh lamb in a press release for a visit to Northern Ireland (posts passim).
Furthermore, there are also times when Michael Gove doesn’t think at all. He didn’t think of his son when he and his wife thought it acceptable to leave the 11 year-old at a hotel to go to a party.
Thinking is a skill that can be taught and acquired, but your correspondent has yet to see that Gove has gained sufficient quantities thereof in his education at public school and thereafter at Oxford University.
Then again, lack of talent has never been an obstacle to achieving high office for the Blue Team…
On Saturday, a certain Melania Trump was discharged from hospital following surgery for a kidney problem.
Needless to say her husband. one Donald John Trump, who occasionally resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. in between golfing trips, was delighted.
So delighted he sent the tweet below to his followers.
The reason why The Donald should misspell his wife’s name is unknown. Perhaps he had that pesky predictive text active on his tweeting device.
However, the 45th President of the United States is not the first Republican Party occupant of that office of state to experience problems with the use of the English language.
George H.W.’s son, George W., who was affectionately known as “Dubya” and inaugurated as the USA’s 43rd president, was so inept with his alleged mother tongue that a term – Bushisms – was coined to denote his ability to engage both tongue and brain when speaking in public. Bushisms are defined as Dubya’s unconventional statements, phrases, pronunciations, malapropisms and semantic or linguistic errors in public speaking. Besides malapropisms, Bushism’s other common characteristics included the creation of neologisms, spoonerisms, stunt words and grammatically incorrect subject–verb agreement.
To conclude this brief excursion into members of the Grand Old Party’s difficulties with English, who can forget former Vice-President James Danforth Quayle’s erroneous correction of a school student’s correct rendition of “potato“? 😀
* = Apologies to the late George Orwell for the title.
Today, 19th May 2018, uncelebrated blues artiste Mumblin’ Harry Wales (posts passim) weds US actor Meghan Markle in Windsor.
Whilst I have no particular axe to grind against anyone wishing to get married and wish Mr Wales and Ms Markle every happiness, I do have objections to the undemocratic nature monarchy and the idea that the heads of state of this country should come down the birth canals of one particular family and one family only.
Then there’s the whole concept of the so-called royal family being somehow special or better than the rest of humanity.
In these objections I’m in fine company.
One of those who share my republican ideals was James Keir Hardie (15 August 1856 – 26 September 1915), socialist, politician and trade unionist, who rose to become the first leader of the Labour Party.
In “Keir Hardie: His Writings and Speeches” edited by Emrys Hughes and published by Forward Printing and Publishing Company Ltd, Glasgow in 1928, Hardie is credited with writing the following on the occasion of Victoria von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha’s diamond jubilee in 1897. However, his remarks are still relevant today and reveal how far ahead Hardie was of the conventional establishment thinking of his time.
Even under a representative system of government it is possible to paralyse a nation by maintaining the fiction that a reigning family is a necessity of good government. Now, one of two things must be – either the British people are fit to govern themselves or they are not. If they are, an hereditary ruler who in legislation has more power than the whole nation is an insult. Despotism and monarchy are compatible; democracy and monarchy are an unthinkable connection.
If we are for the Queen we are not for her subjects. The throne represents the power of caste – class rule. Round the throne gather the unwholesome parasites who cling to the system which lends itself to their disordered condition. The toady who crawls through the mire of self-abasement to enable him to bask in the smile of royalty is the victim of a diseased organism. No healthy, well-developed people could for one moment tolerate an institution which belongs to the childhood of the race, and which in these latter days is the centre, if not the source, of the corrupting influences which constitute Society.
The great mind, the strong heart, the detestation of wrong, the love of truth whether in cot or palace will always command my respect. But to worship an empty form, to make pretence to believe a gilded mediocrity indispensable to the well-being of the nation – where is the man who will so far forget what is due to his manhood?
In this country loyalty to the Queen is used by the profit-mongers to blind the eyes of the people. We can have but one feeling in the matter – contempt for thrones and for all who bolster them up.
Prime Minister Theresa May has the inhuman touch, an inability to relate to people that has led some unkind people to refer to her as the “Maybot“. Indeed, the Financial Times (the sporting pink for the casino economy. Ed.) even came up with a definition for his noun last December, i.e.:
A prime minister so lacking in human qualities that she soon requires a system reboot.
However, I wonder if our mainstream media have ever noticed the striking similarity between Theresa May and Twiki, the robot assistant of the eponymous hero of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century?
Twiki was mainly voiced by the late, great Mel Blanc, who provided the voices for the likes of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, the Tasmanian Devil and many of the other characters from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons stables. If, in addition to these vocal talents, he could be brought back from the grave to speak well and lie badly, the Maybot might sound less like an automaton.
We of a certain vintage remember our reading included following Dan Dare’s adventures in space against his arch-enemy, The Mekon, who with his shaven pate, does a remarkable impression of Sajid Javid, the current Home Secretary, who has recently been ushered into 2 Marsham Street, London SW1 with his dustpan and new broom to clear up the mess the Home Office has created in recent years in relation to the so-called “Windrush generation“.
Incidentally, Javid is not the first Conservative Cabinet Minister to be compared to The Mekon. One of his partisan predecessors, the late Angus Maude, who was Paymaster General in the government of Margaret Thatcher from 1979 to 1981, was nicknamed The Mekon.