Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Article excerpt

IT IS all a matter of register. Mr Gerry Adams burst out the other day with: 'I am absolutely pissed off with trying to make this thing work, and those who have no interest in making it work seize upon two men being killed to exploit it and bring this process down.'

I do not mean to denigrate Mr Adams, who is, I am sure, fond of children and kind to animals. We all speak in much this ungrammatical style. The choice of the phrase pissed off, though, might depend on the company in which we find ourselves. It would go unremarked in many an office; no one turns a hair if such phrases, or worse, blare over us in the cinema. But write them down and publish them in a newspaper, and they acquire an air of unsuitability, at the least.

Sir Derek Hornby, the chairman of London & Continental Railways, which was meant to be building a track for fast trains to the Channel Tunnel, commenting the other day on the reluctance of the government to give it money, said: `We haven't been hung out to dry or shafted.' No, I don't suppose they had. Both the metaphors that Sir Derek was quoted as using are quite popular in the City; they look a bit different in cold print. …

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