|08-14-2012, 06:20 PM||#1|
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: San Francisco
Free (K) English Like It Is by Richard Marsh - On English Usage
English Like It Is: Right, Wrong and Changing Usage
by Richard Marsh
Free Kindle edition - US, UK, Germany, France.
In AZW3 format.
An amusing and helpful reference with active Table of Contents arranged by terms.
Entries such as:
Archetype, Prototype, Epitome, Acme, Quintessence
Beg the Question
Comprise, Consist, Compose
Decapitate, Sever, Dismember
Different From, Different To, Different Than
Double Past; Double Present Perfect: “I would have liked to have done”
Hallmark, Earmark, Trademark, Benchmark
Hang/Hanged/Hanged – Hang/Hung/Hung
Hopefully (and other sentence adverbs)
See also Metaphors.
“Irish bull – an expression containing a contradiction in terms or implying ludicrous inconsistency” – COD (Concise Oxford Dictionary) 1995
“The term ‘Irish bull’ refers to a statement that seems to contain a contradiction. ... ‘Childlessness runs in their breed.’ A little thought allows one to see that the claims are often true.” (GE, Green English, Loreto Todd)
As the examples below demonstrate, an Irish bull goes far beyond COD’s definition. It is a poetic expression in which a nugget of wisdom or sharp social comment peeps out between the seemingly contradictory or inconsistent words. Sir John Mahaffy (1839-1919), Provost of Trinity College Dublin, explained this succinctly when he replied to the question: “What is the difference between an Irish bull and any other kind of bull?” “An Irish bull,” he said, “is always pregnant.”
Sir Boyle Roche (1743-1807), Member of Parliament for Tralee, was the most famous practitioner of the Irish bull. His unimaginative critics pointed to the apparent inconsistencies in his supposedly ad lib comments as proof that he was mentally deficient. It is widely believed, however, that he stayed up nights crafting gems like these:
Half the lies our opponents tell about us are not true.
The only way to prevent what is past is to put a stop to it before it happens.
The profligacy of the age is such that we see little children, not able to walk or talk, running about the streets cursing their Maker.
It is impossible I could be in two places at once, unless I were a bird.
That the Irish bull is alive and well is demonstrated in these public pronouncements gleaned from Irish newspapers:
“Even when there’s complete silence in the chamber, it is impossible to hear anything” – a local councillor complaining about the acoustics in a meeting room. (The Evening Press 2/5/83)
“Sure you can easily live without a tombstone” – a TD (member of the Dáil, the Irish parliament) defending the 35 per cent luxury tax on tombstones. (The Sunday Press 17/4/83)
“They are walking around with their heads in the sand, not facing the fact that they need to manage the policies inside their companies.” (ITim 28/10/00 p. 1.19)
Anthony Butler, in The Book of Bull, points out that one bull often attributed to Sir Boyle was coined by Joseph Addison (1672-1719): “We are always doing something for posterity, but I would fain see posterity do something for us.” Here are further proofs that the Irish bull is not confined by national boundaries. Could it in fact be a British-Irish hybrid?
“I always think that it is entirely wrong to prejudge the past.” [Viscount (Willie) Whitelaw] (STim 4/7/99 p. 5.10)
“Delegates were overheard leaving the auditorium saying they were speechless with anger.” [from a letter accusing a government advisor of “behaviour not befitting a senior civil servant” at a 2006 conference] (Obs 18/2/07 p. 1.12)
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