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Archive for September, 2010

The Miller Bands

How confusing. As a music fan, I have records by The Glenn Miller Band, The Steve Miller Band and The Frankie Miller Band. Now we have The Ed Miller Band as leader of the Labour Party. Perhaps he was chosen in preference to his brother, The David Miller Band, because the media couldn’t take having David Cameron and David Miller Band having a debate where they cross-called each other David non-stop.

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Let’s move on …

Language viruses

Language viruses, catch-phrases and set expressions, travel like lightning. In the last few days, listening to candidates for the leaders of the Labour party speaking on TV and radio, the one you hear again and again is “Let’s move on.”

This was used frequently during the Northern Ireland peace talks, and with good reason, but was appropriated by Tony Blair who turned it into a politician’s mantra. He must have said it so many times at cabinet meetings that Gordon Brown kept repeating it in the 2010 election, and now the Milliband brothers and Ed Balls are displaying the same addiction to the phrase. It has spread to business leaders in interviews too.

‘Let’s move on’ is not simply ‘Let’s change the subject’ (though that’s what it means). ‘Let’s move on’ has nuances. It’s used in this way. An interviewer has just presented an unanswerable piece of folly to the politician / business leader. e.g. What about the time you started a war based on fraudulent information / wrecked the economy / polluted the entire Gulf of Mexico /  were found in a compromising situation with a person (or creature) you should not have been with?

The politician pauses, then says in a very adult patronising tone, ‘Let’s move on!’ It has to be said in such a way that we see the questioner as irritating, flogging a dead horse, being like a dog with a bone, while the forward-thinking politician wishes to move us to the more positive future, casting aside all negativity.

Blair was the most annoying user, substituting ‘Let’s move on!’ for things he might have said like ‘Yes, I know. I’m truly sorry.’ Ed Balls used it on Radio Four this morning. Ed Balls is a man whose courage is undeniable., Anyone with the surname ‘Balls’ who takes on the job of minister for education, thus having himself announced to halls full of teenagers on a weekly basis as ‘Mr Balls’, needs bravery, or a very thick skin. There was a kid called ‘Balls’ in my class at school. From the first day he was known as ‘Bollocks’ even to the point where teachers used it too, having picked it up on the football field. ‘Bollocks! Over here, pass it to me …’ After seven years the boy had got used to it. Anyway, Mr Balls presented an economic argument. The interviewer picked holes in. He couldn’t think of a decent answer, so ‘Let’s move on.’ It collocates with ‘Well …’ or ‘Anyway …’

The signs are that the phrase has entered phase two of a language virus. I’ve heard it used ironically in the last few weeks. One example was a wife berating her husband at a dinner party (in a joking way) for always leaving the toilet seat up. His reply was, ‘Yes. (pause) Well, Let’s move on!’ We’ve started using it within the family as the response to any verbal criticism.

‘You didn’t put the butter in the fridge last night!’

‘Yes. Well, let’s move on!’

It replaces the old catch-phrase, ‘There’s no answer to that!’

POSTSCRIPT: Someone pointed out that the three male candidates, David Milliband, Ed Milliband and Ed Balls are on radio / TV all the time, while the fourth candidate, Diane Abbott is rarely seen. It was suggested that this was because she was black and female. The correct reason, according to the politically savvy, is that the other three all went to Oxford (just like David Cameron, William Hague, George Osborne, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Harold Macmillan, Hugh Gaitskell, Clement Attlee …) and she went to Cambridge (like Nicholas Clegg).

Oxford’s domination of political leadership was illustrated in the sitcom “Yes, Minister.” The minister is in a car going to Oxford and says it’s curious that there are two motorways, the M4 and M40, going close to Oxford, but not one going to Cambridge (At the time the M11 hadn’t been built). The civil servant, Sir Humphrey, explains gently that the Ministry of Tansport has always been dominated by Oxford graduates.

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