This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Thursday, 8 May 2014

A Test of Quality: a rant.

So there I was, alone with the strange man in the dark...

...though when I say strange, I don't mean to cast any aspersions on Mr...I'll call him Mr Scott. He seemed a normal enough character. I just didn't know him very well. He didn't say much.

We'd talked of the past and the present, and then came the test. From out of a drawer Mr Scott took out a lighted box printed with different sizes of type on the top, and gave it to me to read.

Even the smallest print.

(I've sometimes thought about writing a story about an optician, for, as you may have guessed, such was Mr Scott. Perhaps something to do with the eyes being the window into the soul. But I digress.)

The last time I'd taken the test the box had been printed with a passage from Jeremy by Hugh Walpole, which is a good book. There had been a bit of Evelyn Waugh, there, too, I think, though I can't remember which novel.

These passages had provided an oasis of delight in the middle of trying to decide between the very similar merits of number one lens and number two.

Anyway. What do I find inscribed on the box this time? Walpole, Waugh, Wycherley, Wordsworth, Wilde?


I find that the box displaying some fatuous nonsense about a paper round and the repeated mantra Hard Work Makes Character.

Literature, my friends, had been abandoned.

Now. Apart from the horror of the jettisoning of good writing (why? Why??) what idiot decided that Hard Work Makes Character?

If it were true, then slaves would be the most fulfilled people in the world.

You'll be glad to know I made my feelings strongly known.

Poor Mr Scott.

I think he flinched a bit.

But he still didn't really say much.

Word To Use Today: character. This word comes from the Latin for distinguishing mark, from the Greek kharaktēr, engraver's tool.


  1. Well, I think you're very observant! I have been having eye tests for decades and never even noticed what was on those readers. But I do agree....Hard work etc is a bit of a come down. Character....what does that mean, really, except stoicism of some kind? Character building etc....I think of the word as meaning ' a fictional person in a book play or movie;. '

    1. Stoicism...yes, I can't think of anything nearer to what's meant. Determination, perhaps. But I'm afraid it's often not much more than a stubborn person's preening.