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Say again

By Ian Nance - posted Tuesday, 17 December 2019

People often use words and phrases wrongly when attempting figures of speech.

I'm prompted to pen this comment after somebody recently described something bad that had happened to them quite rapidly as occurring in "one foul swoop".

I knew what was meant by the wrong adjective but chuckled inwardly at the mistake.


As I've mentioned previously, I'm pedantic about the proper use of English, an attitude which I trace back to an excellent group of teachers during my first years of high school.

At a recent enjoyable luncheon with a number of acquaintances from my early high school days we were chatting about the motivational qualities of some of the teachers we admired during those early high school years we shared.

The language teachers among them were outstanding in their attitude towards passing on an understanding of not only the syntax of the particular language, but also of the culture of its origins.

Our English teacher was remarkably erudite in a non-intellectually threatening way and was most skilled in enthusing us to understand our native tongue, both colloquially as well as in its most formal sense. Appropriately she also taught us to recognise when and how it would be appropriate to slip from one style to another.

We were also fortunate to have a Latin master who had the knack of understanding what could motivate a love of that language and culture from which it stemmed.

As a result of his own obvious love of the language inspiring my interest, I was moved to research Roman history, law, the military, and writing. Another technique he employed was to allocate from time to time an almost complete period during which conversation had to be in Latin, but if a modern phrase was needed and did not exist in an original Latin form, then we had to try to create it, and be prepared to explain in English and justify our reasoning


We did not succumb to the popular antagonism about Latin's being a dead language, but rather were wisened to the fact that it was no longer a growing developing one, hence was fairly final in its form, allowing a totality of understanding.

In all, I think this era sharpened my awareness of the structure of my own language, and the fact that Latin together with German, Greek, French and various Scandinavian tongues provide the basis of the English language, and possibly accounts for my aim to use it flawlessly.

Not a bad beginning for a lad who was to move into the realm of journalism after those schooldays.

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About the Author

Ian Nance's media career began in radio drama production and news. He took up TV direction of news/current affairs, thence freelance television and film producing, directing and writing. He operated a program and commercial production company, later moving into advertising and marketing.

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