This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Nuts and Bolts: the Queen's speech.

Queen Elizabeth II opened a new session of the British Parliament the other day.

It's really not much of a gig, the State Opening of Parliament. The poor Queen has to balance a huge crown on her head, tow around a long cloak with several small boys attached to it:

 and read out a speech written for her by the government.

And her Majesty doesn't so much as wince. What a trouper.

As if this wasn't enough, the Queen is also landed with the responsibility for keeping the English language in good shape. The Queen's English, people say, meaning English as it should be spoken or written.

As far as I know the Queen's English is indeed entirely correct, but this doesn't mean that copying Her Majesty doesn't sometimes lead people into difficulties.

One tries to avoid the raindrops, the Queen might say: and what she'd mean if she did say it (because I'm sure she knows all about the English language's odd nooks and crannies) is that people try to dodge showers.

What the Queen wouldn't mean is that she, herself, in particular, tries to avoid the raindrops: because one used in this way doesn't mean I at all, but people generally.

This use of one is very formal, of course, and getting it wrong makes one look an utter fool, so I think that for myself I'm going to avoid it altogether.

very few people will look down on me for this, but they'll probably be the sort of people who think that one awarded the prizes yesterday at the regatta is admirable English.

And those people are of absolutely no consequence at all.

Word To Use Today: one. This word comes from the Old English ān, and is related to the Latin unus and the Greek oinē, which means ace.

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