Calm down dear, it’s only language

Richard Alcock, the Guardian newspaper’s business production editor, has written a post in the Mind Your Language blog offering David Cameron advice on the use of catchphrases. The post is inspired by the Prime Minister’s recent use of “Calm down dear” when addressing Angela Eagle, a female Labour Party MP — and Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, no less. Her retort was: “I’ve been patronised by better people than the prime minister”.

What I found most interesting about the post were the following comments by Mr. Alcock:

The prime minister seems to take an unfortunately simplistic approach to language, believing that words have their dictionary meanings and should be understood as such. […]

But well-known phrases come freighted with meanings that underlie the plain black and white of the words, particularly catchphrases, which exist like cultural artefacts and must be “read” in their socio-cultural context, deconstructed, their real significance unpacked. […]

So here to help the prime minister are a few more catchphrases […] with explanations of their context and underlying meaning. […]

So context matters, and the obvious meaning isn’t always the real meaning.

Translators, does any of the above strike a chord?

By Marian Dougan

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