Friday, September 10, 2010

Two postscripts

Just two quick follow-ups to yesterday's posts.

Firstly, Kira Cochrane in The Guardian has picked up the David Haye "as one-sided as a gang-rape" story and put together a more wide-reaching piece on the word "rape" itself and its changing uses. It's an interesting read which touches on many issues to do with language reflecting and shaping social attitudes, while also making some good points about how the casual use of the word can both emphasise the horror of the act itself and also diminish its significance. The etymology of the word itself though is worth a look. According to Etymology online, the original (late 14th Century) meaning of "to rape" was to "seize" or "take by force" and it had no clear sexual connotation. It was only later (late 16th Century) that sexual meanings became applied to the word, and then in the sense that the woman was treated as any other "object" that had been taken by force, perhaps revealing the attitude that women were the property of men and the violation of a woman was actually a crime against the man who "owned" her.

Secondly, in response to the Simon Heffer piece on Radio 4's Today yesterday, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at UCL, Dick Hudson, points out that the example Heffer gives of "I will, you shall, he shall" is not actually right if he is talking about the rule of "simple futurity" that he has referred to seconds before. Was this dodgy editing by Radio 4, or should Mr Heffer go back to school? Where this stuff isn't actually taught anyway...

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