This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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



Thursday, 29 January 2015

A truth universally acknowledged: a rant.


One of the very best novels ever written* begins with one of the very best opening sentences:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

It's wonderful, isn't it? But look, writing something similar often only reveals the chasm between the copy and the original.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single girl of high standing at Longbourn Academy must be in want of a prom date. 

Elizabeth Eulberg, Prom and Prejudice

And sometimes the truth-universally-acknowledged doesn't actually even begin to pass for true. Like this:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any diva worth her salt must record, at some time in her career, a Christmas album. 
Radar magazine 

Or this:


It is a truth universally acknowledged that every year since 2001 has been labelled the 'year of mobile'. 
CIO.co.uk


Anyway, look, if you must pinch the formula, then at least give us some added value in the form of a joke:



 It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. 
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Graham-Smith.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a wife, must be in want of a good fortune. 

Pied and Prodigious by DM Andrews

But whatever you do, at least get the grammar right:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a TV Scheduler in possession of the daily audience figures that radio stations attract would be in want of a bottle of smelling salts.
Radio Times (I think, I can't find the cutting. I think I may have torn it into a thousand pieces and stamped on it.)

Finally, while researching this post I came across an essay titled with this quote on academia.edu. It has 82 footnotes and cites a host of authorities from Simone de Beauvoir to Max Weber. But it gets the quote wrong:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

And it gets it wrong twice. 

Heaven help us all.

Word To Use Today: pride. This word comes, rather sweetly, from the Old English prāda, and is related to the Latin prodesse, to be useful and the Old Norse prūthr, stately.  

*Pride and Prejudice, of course, by Jane Austen.

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