Son of a Bitch

Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to get too political. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry’s got their hot take on Donald Trump, so I want to keep things focussed on language: grammar, etymology, stuff like that. Hang on, let me just have a quick look at Twitter before I write… He’s said what!?…

On Friday, Donald Trump, somehow President of the United States, weighed in on the controversial issue of professional American-football players protesting against racial injustice and police inequality towards African Americans. He naturally employed all the gravitas and diplomacy one would expect of his office, and said the following:

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Roaming Charges

On Thursday 15th June 2017, roaming charges were abolished within the EU. And there was much rejoicing. Roaming charges were one of those things that for a long time I kind of just accepted. Living in Ireland, the rest of Europe usually felt far away enough that it seemed somehow appropriate that using my phone would be more expensive whenever I went there. But recently I drove for about 45 minutes from Belgium to the Netherlands, and suddenly it seemed entirely absurd that I had to pay a fortune (rather than nothing) for using data, just because I’d crossed a fairly arbitrary line. Why should it cost more in a different country? Was I inconveniencing the phone company in some way? Did they have to do more work to drag the data over the border and into my phone?

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You’re Welcome!

If you’re a generous person, you may have been saying you’re welcome a lot recently, to all those you’ve given gifts to. What do we mean when we say you’re welcome? It’s almost an afterthought: the most important information being conveyed in this part of the conversation is the thank you. Saying you’re welcome is really just wrapping a bow on the thanks, acknowledging the grateful receipt of it. When you think about the actual meaning of the words, they make the most sense if you consider someone thanking you for giving them something. What you’re saying then is that they’re welcome to whatever it is you gave to them, even if it’s something intangible like help. Even so, it still feels a bit redundant, because surely that could be taken for granted: you wouldn’t have given it to them if they weren’t welcome to it. Continue reading

Punctual to a Point

While thinking about the word punctuation today (which is the kind of thing I do), I considered how similar the word punctuality is to it. I wondered what the link could be. It seemed to me that the concept they share is exactitude. Punctuation allows one to be precise in their meaning in a sentence, and if one is extremely punctual, one allows arrive at the exact moment one should.

And unsurprisingly, both come from the same root word: punctus, the Latin word for point. Which makes a lot of sense. Punctuality, though is an interesting concept. Of course it’s a positive one that we value, overall. We hate if our friends are late when meeting up (if we’re normal).  But do we ever admire it? Like the person who never misses a day off work through sickness, are we really impressed by someone who’s never late? Or does it annoy us? Do we think they’re too perfect, too punctilious? I think is why punctuality is often invoked as a kind of back-handed compliment in that great bastion of reading-between-the-lines: the job reference. Continue reading

Sorry Seems to be the Easiest Word

Yesterday evening I bought myself some Hammerite Kurust rust converter (we all need a treat on a Friday). When the sales assistant forgot to give me my €1 change I instinctively said Sorry, could I get my change please?

Why did I say sorry? What did I do to him? It took him a few moments to open the till, but apart from that I didn’t inconvenience him that much. English can be quite polite at times, but it does seem a little bizarre that our first instinct is to apologise  in a lot of situations. Continue reading