Archive | April, 2016

‘Used’ misused

27 Apr

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 15.47.08 Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 15.49.18

Hmm, not quite. There seems to have been a lot of this coming across the desk recently: politicians “using” speeches to say things. It used to be that speeches were only ever “made”; now, more and more of them are apparently serendipitous opportunities to be taken advantage of, as though every speaking engagement offered an open platform and a plastic audience, waiting for a politician to set the debate.

It’s a minor point, but the two aren’t quite co-terminous. It’s correct to say “use” for some occasions – for example, major set-piece speeches that exist on the calendar as regular events. When President Kennedy exhorted Americans to “ask what you can do for your country”, he was speaking at his inaugural address: something that all new presidents can be expected to make, but whose content depends entirely on the speaker. That, had anyone been using the phrase at the time, would have been a good example of “using a speech” to rally the country. And on a slightly less elevated note, when George Osborne announced the re-privatisation of Britain’s nationalised banks, he did so at the 2013 Mansion House speech – again, an annual diary event at which the chancellor is expected to appear and say something, but whose agenda is left entirely open.

However, if there’s no such diary event in prospect – if the opportunity to speak has to be created out of nothing – the term isn’t nearly so accurate. If Jeremy Corbyn is standing in front of a backcloth saying LABOUR IN FOR BRITAIN while making a speech about staying in the EU, or Michael Gove is urging Brexit in front of a huge banner saying VOTE LEAVE TAKE CONTROL, that’s not using a speech; that’s making a speech. Those addresses aren’t open-mic nights in neutral venues, they’re campaign stops: media opportunities where the event has been created for the message, not the message for the event.

There’s a difference. Or there is at the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised if usage makes it blur.

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What’s in a Neym?

11 Apr

This is a bit easy, don’t you think? I know the headline counts on tabloids are pretty tight, but things get an awful lot simpler if you’re allowed to shorten anybody’s name to anything at all you like. Wayne Rooney becomes Roo, Neymar becomes Neym, Roman Abramovich becomes Rom; in America – or at least, in that most British of American tabloids, the New York Post – Mayor Bill de Blasio is Blas and NYPD officers on the receiving end of disciplinary action from Commissioner Bill Bratton get a “Bratt Whack”.

You can apparently even do it two different ways in the same article: on one Sun back page, Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino is POCH in the headline and MAUR in the standfirst, to go with MOUR (Jose Mourinho). Sometimes tabloids have quite strict style-guide rules for this sort of thing, but apparently not in this case: pick any short group of distinctive letters that fits your measure, and away you go.

It’s not even as though these are anyone’s established nicknames. Wayne Rooney is known to team-mates as “Wazza”, not “Roo”. Teenage sensation Marcus Rashford’s nom de guerre is reportedly “Money”, not “Rash”. And whatever David de Gea’s nickname is, I’m pretty sure it’s not “De”.

It’s enough to make any punctilious broadsheet sub jealous. Just imagine what we could do given the same freedom: NIX QUITS. DEW DEFEATS TRU. But while the tabs have been granted the licence to dance around Jan Vennegoor Of Hesselink with abandon, we’re on our own when it comes to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Let’s hope nothing serious happens regarding the Madagascan presidency before Hery Rajaonarimampianina steps down.