Judge to defence counsel ‘Has your client not heard the phrase ‘Qui tacet consentire’?’
Defence counsel ‘They speak of little else in Rochdale, my lord’.
If that seems a little out of the ordinary, a letter in The Guardian on Tuesday May 15th began ‘Mon Dieu, écoutes ses ses subjonctifs’. Now we have tackled the French subjunctive, it’s time for the imperative.’ Indeed it is.
Before I go on to emphatics and split infinitives, which are both favourites of mine, I have to say in mitigation that the same edition of The Guardian had a headline which stated ‘TB diagnoses sparks alpaca health warning’ alpaca owners apparently being in denial over the risk. One really does wonder what sort of people own alpacas these days!
But emphatics and split infinitives. We were all brought up to know (weren’t we?) the difference between ‘I shall drown and nobody will save me’ and ‘I will drown and nobody shall save me’; the difference between life and death. Equally, we were all used to the most famous split infinitive of the lot, ‘To boldly go…….’. a first rate emphatic in itself. We were equally warned off other emphatics; ‘fuck’ and ‘fucking’ were two words never to be used. Hence language defined itself in terms of social class; ‘Don’t you know?’ or ‘What, what?’ are acceptable, but ‘Init?’ (Is it not?) and ‘Avuntie?’ (Haven’t I), are not. And before you, dear reader start to feel linguistically superior and socially virtuous, do think about what you call the object you piss into – a lavatory, a toilet, or a loo.
And do also think why you can appreciate the beauty, rhythm and construction of the English language. When a mixed race girl with a heroin addicted father appeared on television asking if ‘East Angular’ was abroad, we laughed, forgetting that we were responsible for not providing her with a decent education. She died very publicly, and with dignity to raise money to give her children the education she had never had. And if you don’t know who I am referring to, read Owen Jones’ Chavs.