I cannot be the only person who abhors the adoption of certain fashionable usages by the English language. Many of these get right up my nose but few so much as the overuse of the word conversation. I was listening to a diplomat discussing the recent upsurge in violence in Syria around the city of Aleppo. A sort of ceasefire has been in place for six or eight weeks but has now broken down. It looks as if the Russians and the Assad government have become emboldened for some unaccountable reason and have decided to mount a renewed assault on the city causing many civilian casualties and the deliberate bombing of a couple of hospitals. The diplomat said, when asked what should be done, that we – meaning the West – should have a conversation with Mr Putin and his merry men. My idea of a conversation is a few like-minded people sitting around a table in a coffee shop and chatting idly about affairs of the day. Conversation, in my opinion, is all too feeble a word to use in the context of the mass slaughter that is going on in Aleppo. A conversation is the very last thing necessary. What is needed is a very direct, pointed and stern discussion. The use of the word conversation in this context is all part of the contemporary mushifying of our language. We no longer speak to people; we speak with them. Does this mean we speak in unison so no one can hear what is going on. We no longer meet people; we meet with them. Is to speak to someone or to meet someone too confronting and perhaps even offensive?
Readers will take heart from the recent lengthy publication concerning religious rights and privileges for the inmates of her Majesty’s prisons in the United Kingdom and its supply to all the corrections officers, who work in them. The instructions ramble on for well over a hundred pages and mandate that prisoners who are Rastafarians must have drums to play while they are at prayer. Pagans must have magic wands. Followers of more conventional cults are to be supplied with Bibles, Korans and copies of the Torah. On the other hand, Wiccans are not to be allowed to worship “sky clad” (naked). This seems unreasonable in the light of the provisions for Rastafarians et cetera. It can’t be too long before the matter is settled via an extremely expensive legal process that goes all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
Donald Trump is now the last man standing and he is now not far short of getting the number of delegates to ensure that he wins the Republican party nomination at the first round of the forthcoming convention. It even looks as if the grandees and nabobs of the Grand Old Party are starting to bow to the inevitable. Perhaps they fear what might follow a contested convention which managed to finesse the nomination away from the Donald. The latter’s progress during the past year has been truly eerie. At every stage, the wiseacres (experts?) have all said it can’t last and that the public will wake up. Well, it looks as if it has and that it didn’t. Hillary Clinton, for the Democrats, looks like a shoe-in. I think we are all set for a very bruising general election campaign during which Mr Trump is going to say many unkind and frankly rude things about Mrs Clinton. I hope she is now having regular vinegar baths every night in order to thicken her skin.
I have just completed the Canadian online census questionnaire. There was one question I struggled with: was I prepared to release my information to the public in ninety-two years' time? Gee! That’s a hard one.
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May 5 2016