Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Backhanded Compliment?


I was ploughing through some linguistic sites/blogs recently and it got me reflecting on the complexity of language and the way in which it carries baggage which may be peculiar to a region or a group of people.

I had always been impressed by François Sagan's description of herself as a Catholic Agnostic, not so much by the description itself as by the subtlety of the baggage.

Agnostic by conviction and Catholic by upbringing. So you have Jewish agnostics, Anglican atheists etc. It is a very useful distinction and saves a lot of time, pain, and misunderstanding.

But my reflections took me back elsewhere.

I had written a speech on, inter alia, Third World Debt for a Minister at an IMF/World Bank AGM.

On hearing the Minister deliver it, a very senior colleague turned to me and said, "That sounds like Bono wrote it".

I didn't know whether to be chuffed or angry. If it was a comment on the substance of what was said, then irrespective of this person's opinion of Bono, I would take it as a compliment. If, however, it was equating me personally with the greatest debt reliever of all time, I would be seriously insulted.

Now, Saint Bob would be a different matter entirely.

What do you think?

(For the avoidance of doubt, I am not related to Bono, this side of Adam and Eve, as far as I know and pray.)



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