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Being Economical…

March 22, 2011

…with the Truth (I could never be accused of being economical with anything else…!)

I had occasion today to refer to Alan Clark’s infamous court appearance when he admitted being ‘economical with the actualité’. Alas, I used the word ‘verité’ and hit send before double checking.

Verité is French for Truth, while actualité is French for news (as in ‘the news at 10’).

It seems inconceivable that the Right Hon Mr Clark would have confused the two words on the public stage of a Court of Law, so by ‘frenchifying’ the English word ‘actuality’ he was turning the well known phrase ‘economical with the truth‘ into a latin style tag in order to show his contempt for the questioner (being blunt, contempt for the listener or reader is what lies buried underneath the use of latin tags).

But Alan must also have taken a punt that the great unwashed public (and press) would not know that the phrase no longer made literal sense – and he was right: The explosion caused by his admission was only enhanced by the reporting of the supposed French tag, when there was an appreciable risk that he would simply look stupid because he had got the tag ‘wrong’.

And he did it off the cuff, under pressure, in the witness box. What a man!


From → Language

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