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Thursday, 15 June 2017

Getting your goat: a rant.

A new parliament in Britain starts with the Queen's Speech. Our wonderful queen dresses up gallantly in a long dress, cloak, and a large and heavy crown, and then she sits on a golden throne and reads out a speech written for her by her new government. It announces the main bits of stuff the government plans to do over its term of office.

photograph from the parliament UK website

There are page-boys and gold braid and jewels and lots of knee-breeches and velvet and ermine (any especially stoat-friendly lords will wear fake fur) and it's all very amazing and peculiar.

But this time there's a problem. Well, two problems.

First of all, our recent election didn't return a winner strong enough to survive if everyone else gangs up on them, and so it looks likely that the ceremony will be delayed until the government finds some really reliable friends among the other parties.

Secondly, there's trouble with the goats


Well, not with the goats so much as the goatskin - which, as a matter of fact, doesn't actually come from a goat.

I told you it was all peculiar.

The thing is, the Queen's Speech is written on high-quality paper designed to last a couple of thousand years (at least) and this stuff is called goatskin paper, even though it has never even seen a goat.

Now, the paper's no problem, but apparently the ink that's used to write the speech takes several days to dry, and the wrangling over who's going to support the largest party, and under what terms, has been going on for so long that the opening of the British Parliament might be held up so the ink of the Queen's Speech, when an agreement has been reached as to what should be in it, has time to dry off.

Good grief. You'd think they could just use a photocopy for the time being, wouldn't you?

Word To Use Today: goat. The Queen's Speech used to be written on real goatskin, but now it's written on high-quality paper with amazingly impractical ink. As a nod to tradition, the paper has a hallmark in the shape of a goat. The word goat comes from the Latin haedus, which means kid.

Going goat is an expression used in parliament to refer to the moment the Speech must be ready in order for it to be sent to the Queen for her approval before the State Opening of Parliament.

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