Friday, March 31, 2006

We Are Not Fooled!

On my way from the hotel to the office this morning, I was listening to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. There was a piece about US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice visting the constituency of UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw.

Apparently, Straw was keen to show Rice the same hospitality that she had shown him on his visit to Oklahoma. Problem is, his US trip would be akin to Oswald Mosley visiting Germany. Straw could reasonably expect a warm reception in the US. Condoleeza Rice visiting here is a completely different kettle of ballgames. She shares part of the blame for decisions with which many of the British public disagree. Why on earth would she expect to be greeted warmly?

What dismayed me is that rather than spend any time assessing or discussing the strength of feeling amongst the people on whom her presence will be foisted, Radio 4 wheeled in a couple of buffoons to talk about local sites that must not be missed. The half-hearted effort by the presenter to bring up the subject of protest against the visit was quickly sidelined by a dull trivium on the subject of regional location and nomenclature.

It seems the criminals who manufactured the war in Iraq think they can rehabilitate themselves by playing a long game; that one day in the future, we will find ourselves thinking of them once more as decent human beings, rather than the nasty, self-serving, short-sighted, hypocritical filth that they are. We are not fooled, and I hope we will not be. This situation is not comparable to Charles convincing us that Camilla's alright even if she is a bit of an old horse. (Although I still wonder about his sanity - fancying Camilla over Diana, I mean, really!)

Incidentally, I used the word criminals because the war in Iraq was in breach of international law, breaking law is a crime, and people who commit crime are criminals. Personally, I'd love to see George Bush put on trial for war crimes. Mind you, I'd also love to see Margaret Thatcher stand trial for the Belgrano affair.

So let us not roll over and let the vile, self-serving architects of the war PR themselves back into our good books. Let us never forget the many lives lost on both sides to serve the avarice of a few, to promote the agenda of big business, and to make the world a considerably more dangerous place.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Power Struggle

I had a Road To Damocles moment today concerning the power dynamic between myself and a colleague. Let's call him Kate.

Kate has a habit of making outrageous and unrealistic demands. I think the expectation (conscious or subconscious - we may never know) is that if he drops a few of the most egregiously preposterous ones, it looks like he's being reasonable, so he ends up getting more of what he wants, even though in reality he is still chancing his arm and trying to get a whole lot more than he should. Like Israel.

What I hadn't realised is that my automatic response to this is to say "no", and then to become very suspicious of every request he makes.

It dawned on me that if I were to acquiesce to Kate's ploy, he would win, and would gain power. However, my automatic response seems to undermine his ploy, and I force him to fight tooth and nail for every concession. In effect, I end up winning and gaining power.

It's all a bit Machiavellian, I suppose, but I'm sure that would come as no surprise to my lovely husband, who thinks I'm a bit of a control-freak anyway. Naturally, I think he's one, too, and that's why it bothers him. Ah well. Perhaps neither of us would have chosen to fall in love with another top, but them's the breaks, innit?

Addendum

I found out the day after writing this, using that old but effective technique called "asking", that Kate is aware that he does this. He says he used to do it consciously, but over the years it has become second nature.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Binary Properties

As well as getting exercised about mixed metaphors, I also amuse myself by observing the inappropriate use of quantifiers with words that don't logically fit with them. The first time I noticed this was when I thought about the phrase "almost unique". It dawned on me that something is either unique or it's not. There is no "almost". It's a binary property. So now I look out for other examples. I guess I'll stick them all here as I find them. Here goes:

"The transfer time should be just about instant."

Metaphorical Mixing

I love a good mixed metaphor (and a mashed simile), and keep meaning to write them all down somewhere. So I guess it's going to be here.

Mixed metaphors seem to be sneaking in everywhere. I first really began to notice them in New Zealand, but they are perhaps more prominent in Australian English, which may explain the relish with which they are lampooned by Kath & Kim. They've come out with some corkers in their time! Not to mention their many entertaining malapropisms, such as:

Kim - "I want to be effluent, mum!"
Kath - "You are effluent, Kim!"

Perhaps I should group these mixed metaphors into ones I've heard people use for real, and ones that have been made up for comic effect either by myself or others.

The real deal:
  • I don't want this to fall through the toilet.
This was said in a meeting by one of the managing directors of a company I worked for. A delightful combination of "I don't want this to fall through" and "I don't want this to go down the toilet", it conjures up images of fractured cisterns and shattered porcelain.
  • ... if I can just throw in a left ball.
As said by a delightful friend and former colleague when she got the notion of throwing in an idea mixed up with the notion of throwing in something from left field, and for reasons best known to herself decided that with all those references to fields and throwing, balls had to be involved somewhere. The resulting metaphor sounds distinctly uncomfortable, not to mention ill-advised on medical grounds.
  • I have heard that they were working like Trojan horses.
This one, which was probably the one that really woke me up to the mixed metaphor as a feature of NZ English. It was said by a news presenter during an interview with a crew member from Peter Jackson's first Lord Of The Rings movie. The chap being interviewed had commented on how hard everyone had worked, and the presenter came out with this gem. The interviewee was clearly trying hard not to laugh.

The made up nonsense:

I was going to put explanations of these, but have decided that that would be like Gary Larson explaining all his cartoons. If you don't get it, you're not meant to. I'll try and indicate the ones that aren't my own. The others are ones I made up, although I'm entirely aware that other folks might have arrived at them independently of my good self. Or my bad self.
  • That will put the cat amongst the apple carts
  • I had a Road To Damoclese moment
  • Looks like you've been burning the candle at both ends of the spectrum (Kath & Kim)
  • That's a completely different kettle of ball-games
  • I was caught between hell and high water
  • Don't go casting nasturtiums (Kath & Kim)
  • He kicked it for six (Rob Harrison)
  • Stick that up your jumper and smoke it
  • Out of the frying pan, into a hard place