July 20th, 2013


Enigma Variations

Gosh, I had no idea that Randolph Quirk was either alive or a lord. My mother remembers him as one of the more frighteningly intellectual of her peers at university, and to me he's the author of the University Grammar of English, which stood me in good stead for my linguistics exams as an undergraduate. But up he popped yesterday, arguing that Alan Turing should be given a pardon - or rather, that the Government should be asking his pardon.

Good point - but why this is truer of Turing than of any of the other 49,000 men convicted for similar offences is beyond me. If Turing deserves a pardon, why not them? If his crime wasn't a crime after all, why is the same not true of theirs? On the other hand, if outstanding service to the country is enough to wipe out what would otherwise be a lawful conviction, then don't many thousands of patriotic criminals have a similar claim? Solve a cipher, invent a clever machine, do enough charity work, and no court can touch you.

It makes about as much sense as getting time off purgatory by following the Pope on Twitter. Oh, wait....