Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

One Little Word Matters So Much

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

One Little Word Matters So Much

Article excerpt

You may not have noticed it, but a word has disappeared. The government keeps getting truncated. Pundits do it, politicians do it, even the Today programme now does it. "The government" has been downsized and turned into "government". "Government has a role in providing public transport," we are told. Or "one player will be government".

It is true that our linguistic culture seems increasingly hostile to the definite article. Newspapers have led this assault on the poor little word. Broadsheets have followed tabloids in imitating the article-less noun-train that makes up a typical sentence in the US press: secretary of state and Iraq war caution-urger Colin Powell; thick-haired Chancellor and prime ministerial wannabe Gordon Brown.

Never mind the commas, I'm concerned about the "the"s. Where have they all gone? After all, nobody speaks in sentences like that.

I suspect that the replacement of "the government" by "government" has been a malicious foreshortening. …

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