A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

literature
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

CONTEXTUALLY YOURS (article first published : 2001-05-4)

In my last piece we talked of the feebleness of South African invective, and particularly the use of “unacceptable” to fit every occasion. I said confidently that “they do things better elsewhere”, meaning the Northern Hemisphere. I was wrong. They do things just the same, as the following examples will show. All quotations are from two consecutive issues of The Weekly Telegraph, London.

The British company Railtrack has apparently been mismanaging the railway lines, and has been held responsible for the Hatfield crash which claimed several lives. “In their latest report…the MPs said Railtrack’s maintenance was not acceptable.”

A Tory MP accused immigrants of causing increases in crime, among other things. The leader of his party, William Hague, took exception: “John Townend’s remarks…are totally unacceptable.”

Nick Brown, Agriculture Minister, objected to the “racist overtones” in certain newspaper reports about his Ministry: “I find this utterly unacceptable.” (Strong stuff!)

Marks & Spencer have decided to close all their subsidiaries in continental Europe. “Unacceptable!” fumed Lionel Jospin, France’s Prime Minister, threatening legal action to prevent redundancies.

Dear, oh dear. Can our language really be so impoverished? We must take comfort from the fact that there are fashions in words, as elsewhere, and we can only hope that “unacceptable” goes out of fashion as smoothly as it came in.

Moving on to something different, we come back to our old friend, the Deputy Editor of South Africa’s largest daily newspaper. We met him in No 9 of this series. Since then he has not lost his deft touch in choosing the wrong word for a given context.

He said recently, of a local parliamentarian, that “his speech was, as usual, presaged by an apology.” He had a choice of at least two words that would have served his purpose, “preface” and “precede”, but opted instead for “presage”, which means to portend, to warn of something to come, not what he meant at all. More recently still, he wrote of a stage production, “And the beauty of this evening… lay not just in the dazzling lights, changing backgrounds and the sophistryof the stage that moved on cue…” Sophistry means “plausibly deceptive or fallacious reasoning”. The word he wanted was, of course, “sophistication”, but we’ll talk more about that in our next column.

Contextually yours, Ulysses Online




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart