Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Due Diligence

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Due Diligence

Article excerpt

No doubt you, too, have had the feeling, upon glancing at an article in a paper picked up in a train or café, that it might mean something to someone, but it means nothing to you. I read this sentence in the Times the other day: 'Not everyone builds an M&A machine on the back of stuff people throw away, such as till receipts and paper cups.' A machine? On the back of stuff? And what are M&As -- like M&Ms?

But I persevered, and later in the piece a phrase appeared without which no indigestible article is complete: 'Mr Roney's due diligence on family firms is so painstaking that he typically waits for one of four issues: succession, financial crisis, health or divorce.' Issues here means 'problems' and health means 'sickness'. But what does due diligence mean?

Although the phrase has been found in print from as long ago as 1598, it was not until 2003 that it found its way into the Oxford English Dictionary . An early citation is from a poem little read for pleasure, though not bare of merit, The Day of Doom by Michael Wigglesworth, a New England Calvinist, a 'morbid, humorless, selfish busybody' in the eyes of a recent Yale professor, but in his day (the 1660s), a bestselling author. …

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