Tag Archives: words

With Respect …

In my experience the 3 little words “I’m not being … ”, (insert the relevant missing word of your choice) are often the precursor for an insult or other offensive comment.

  1. “I’m not being rude, but …”. Meaning – I am going to say something insulting. I am, however going to deny my intention to be rude.
  2. “With respect…”. Meaning – I have no respect for you or the ideas you are expressing. I am, however going to use those words as a figleaf to hide the fact I’m insulting you.
  3. “I’m not racist but …”. Meaning – I hold highly reprehensible views on race. I am, in fact a racist bigot.
  4. “Some of my best friends are …”. Meaning – I don’t like this particular group of people, however I hope to disguise this fact by using the forgoing words.
  5. “Its not you, its me …”. Meaning – It is (in my opinion) entirely down to you that this relationship (insert relevant example) isn’t working. I am, however going to let you down gently by pretending that it is all my fault.

Shakespeare’s words, “One may smile and be a villain” spring to mind.


Shed A Tear For The OED

As a child (a precocious one at that) I owned a Braille edition of The Little Oxford Dictionary of Current English which ran to some 16 volumes in Braille. As a small boy I recall having the idea that one could assemble a library encompassing all the knowledge available. I possessed a vague idea that The Little Oxford only contained a tiny portion of that knowledge but, somehow I believed it was possible for me to know, at the very least, a little about everything.

I know longer cherish the erroneous view that one can ever comprehend all there is to no on a single subject let alone on the ever expanding knowledge base which exists out there. Despite the fact we can never know everything I felt a sense of regret when I read that the next edition of The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) may well only appear online due to the sheer vastness of the project and the prohibitive cost (for many) of £750) of purchasing the print edition. The ever evolving nature of language is, no doubt better suited to an online work of reference hcapable of being easily updated, rather than the many paper volumes which will be out of date as soon as they leave the printing press. None the less I feel a sense of regret at the passing of the OED in it’s traditional printed form. There is something reassuring about holding a real book in one’s hands and I regret the demise of that sense of permanence, however illusory that undoubtedly was. For the article please go to http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturenews/10777079/RIP-for-OED-as-worlds-finest-dictionary-goes-out-of-print.html

Whats in a Word?

I am registered blind. Recently I was in a room with a group of other people with various disabilities when one of those present refered to people “suffering” from dyslexia. I let the use of the word “suffering” go unremarked, however when he continued to employ it during the course of the meeting I politely remarked that I considered it’s utilisation to be inappropriate, a view endorsed by several others present.

To suffer is to endure pain or discomfort. While some disabilities may entail suffering, for example a person who has broken their leg will suffer pain during the course of their temporary disability, many disabilities do not involve suffering. The fact that I, as a blind person can not see to read a newspaper is an inconvenience (I’d love to be able to buy a paper, sit on public transport and read my newspaper along with my fellow commuters, however my inability to read print does not entail suffering. I can go online and access the newspapers using access software which although not as convenient as being able to read a print paper is, none the less far better than not being able to access a newspaper at all.

Societal barriers rather than a disability in and of itself can cause people with disabilities to face inconveniences. For instance the lack of ramps affording access to buildings may make it difficult or impossible for wheelchair users to access them. Any inconvenience “suffered” is, in this case down to the lack of access rather than to the fact that the wheelchair user is unable to walk or, at any rate is only able to walk for very short distances before having to return to their wheelchair.

Not all issues surrounding disability are capable of being resolved by society making adjustments. I can not see paintings and however good my friends description of a picture is their descriptive powers will not furnish me with the capacity to appreciate visual art as a sighted person does. However, in my view I do not “suffer” through my inability to admire paintings. Granted I feel regret but that is not the same as “suffering”.

I am not arguing in favour of policing the English language. People should be able to express themselves freely unless their words are aimed at inciting racial or other hatred. However we all should consider whether our use of language is appropriate.


My collection of short stories, “The First Time” is free in the Kindle store until 8 October. Please visit http://www.amazon.com/The-First-Time-ebook/dp/B00FJGKY7Y/ref=la_B00CEECWHY_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380885715&sr=1-4