Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Socrates lies prostrated, Protagoras triumphs
I'm not sure whether this is a new phenomenon, or whether I've just started to notice it more, but I've been struck during radio news reports over the last few days by the BBC's habit of reporting uncontentious facts as if they were questionable opinions. I should have jotted down examples as I heard them, but they tend to appear as manifestations of the BBC's commitment to "balance". Thus, we'll get something like: "The Government claims that unemployment has fallen, but the TUC says that wages haven't kept up with inflation."

Well, both those statements are demonstrably true - leaving aside whether they're relevant, cherry-picked, etc. I would prefer both "claims" and "says" in the sentence above to be replaced with "points out". That way we can make at least a grammatical distinction between statements of fact, rhetorical flourishes, deliberate ambiguities, and on-the-fly redefinitions of important words such as "deficit", and the like - helping to keep the waters of political discourse running just a little more clearly. It might also help skewering of outright lies, such as that of Grant Shapps yesterday:

There’s only one definition of the deficit and that’s the amount of overspend in the economy by comparison to the size of the overall economy.

Humpty Dumpty would blush. Suffice it to say that if you offered that definition in an Economics exam you'd get a big fat X.

Not that I expect anything to change. Ever since the battle to save the distinction between "deny" and "refute" was lost, we pedantic grumps have been fighting a rearguard action.

In the quote you give, treating the two statements as oppositional is a grammatical crime against the word "but".

You give X's? I did not know that. In the US we use F. You probably knew that.

I'm imagining this a mark on the individual question - X for a wrong question, and a tick (check) for a correct one - rather than the test as a whole. At my university, a failing mark is anything below 40 - but "a big fat 25" just wouldn't look as good.

Here the confusion is between rebut and refute. The right is always said to refute some reasonable, moderate claim, and that's that!

An interesting variant. Naturally one would like to rebut, if only in the form of crying, "But, but...!" before being cut off by Fox News.

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I suspect it goes back to the Adamic language. As Bob Dylan (a writer famously admired by the Miltonist Christopher Ricks) put it in his own version of the Genesis story:

He saw an animal that liked to snort
Horns on his head and they weren’t too short
It looked like there wasn’t nothin’ that he couldn’t pull
“Ah, think I’ll call it a bull.”

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