Friday 29 May 2009

Milking the gravy train

Two more bloated trough-snufflers are herded into the spotlight. Their names are, wait for it, Bill Cash and Sir John Butterfill.
“Tory grandee Sir John Butterfill is the latest to come under scrutiny after avoiding capital gains tax on £600,000 profit from selling a taxpayer-funded property. He claimed nearly £17,000 just for servants’ quarters, where his housekeeper and odd-job man lived.” (ITN)
The greedy grandee (left), who actually bears a certain physical resemblance to a pig, was knighted (or as he puts it “appointed a Knight Batchelor” [sic]) for, ironically enough, “services to Parliament”. Perhaps in the light of how he’s served the reputation of that institution it would serve him right if they took his K back.

But seriously (by which of course I mean but frivolously), what names! What names for people embroiled in an expenses scandal. You couldn’t make it up. Not even if your creative instincts had been honed by years of making up reasons for helping yourself from the public purse. Sheridan himself couldn’t do better. You know the kind of thing:

Dramatis Personae:
Lord Fillmeboots, an Embezzler from the Public Purse
Mr Cheapwords, his Spokesman to the Press
Whingemore, a troublesome Journalist
Divers scrutineers and petty officials of the House, accused of Complicity
The common people of England
, outraged
Sundry Commentators upon the parlous state of Democracy, self-appointed

And of course:
Dame Esther Rantsman, an upstart Opportunist

I mean come on, we might as well get some amusement for our money. No-one can say they’re cheap laughs.

This entry has been sponsored by “Wadges” O’Moolah, your friendly and informal supplier of building and gardening services, tree inspections, duck islands etc. No tedious paperwork, cash welcome, no questions asked in Parliament. Top prices charged — you can't get a good job done for nothing! (Well
you can obviously sir, you’re an MP.)

Thursday 28 May 2009

Family growth

What does it mean if someone refers to their “growing family”? Here’s ITN on Julie Kirkbride MP:
According to the Daily Telegraph, Ms Kirkbride last year told Parliamentary authorities she needed an extra bedroom to house her ‘growing family’ and increased her mortgage at an extra cost £250 a month to the taxpayer.

Her family has not increased in size in the last nine years, but her brother Ian moved into her constituency home to help with childcare and lived there rent-free.
An interesting (ab)use of a linguistic ambiguity to cast aspersions. Who says a “growing” family is one which is increasing in size, in the sense of numbers? It could just as easily refer to the fact that its young members are themselves growing. Where one might put several small children into the same room, after a certain age it’s generally considered better for them to have separate rooms. Or in Ms Kirkbride’s case, there comes a time when one’s son should perhaps no longer ideally be sharing a bedroom with his uncle.

Come on, isn’t there enough evidence to skewer these greedy and unscrupulous MPs on the facts, without resorting to twisting their words?

(Answer: yes. Oh dear me yes.)

Sunday 24 May 2009

Pedantry and politeness in pop

A lexicographer friend blogged recently about “collocational errors” in songs written by non-native speakers in Eurovision songs. It’s hard to put your finger on what’s wrong when someone sings about “longing for someone’s care”, and we can see what it means, though it does sound slightly odd.

But that hardly compares with Macca’s deathless line “in this ever-changing world in which we’re living in”. I don’t think it’s pedantic to find it pretty surprising that a native speaker could come out with that and think it was OK.

Stan Freburg did valuable work in correcting “Old” Man River. “He doesn’t plant potatoes, he doesn’t plant cotting, because those that plant(s) them are soon forgotting…”

And don’t get me started on factual inaccuracy! Katie Melua was at least 1.7 billion light years out in her song about the bicycles in Beijing. She actually had to go back and re-record the song.

Incorrect song lyrics are a menace. As Mr Tweedly points out, the home is a classroom. Come along chaps, speak properly! “I can’t any satisfaction.” “Slap my bitch up please.”

You’re quite welcome, I’m sure.