Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Article excerpt

`THE British government has a concern,' the man from British Airways said on the wireless, `and we have a concern.' Then Robert Taylor wrote in last week's Spectator: `Keir Hardie's values were concerned with the internationalisation of the working class.' I was becoming concerned concerning all this concern, so decided to look into it.

As so often, when some usage annoys one, it turns out that pretty well all the meanings of concern that are used by politicians and suchlike have been in use for two or three hundred years. I think the difficulty comes when meaning 5a in the OED is confused with meanings 4a and 7a. Let me explain.

The semantic field of meaning 5a is to do with anxiety or solicitude, which may be expressed as a feeling. Thus Sterne in A Sentimental Journey writes of `the concern which the poor fellow's story threw me into'. He was in a state of anxiety. We may, though, be concerned about things which are strictly none of our concern, or business.

Concern as an active interest (meaning 4a) was what the Reverend Daniel Waterland had in mind when he spoke in a sermon published in 1720 about `the Son's concern in the Work of Creation'. …

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