I’m a bit of a pedant. Undeterred by the fact that I may be on shaky ground, I get irritated when people say “Off his own back” instead of ‘bat’, or “the proof is in the pudding”. Another one that irks me is “heart-wrenching, or, even worse heart-rendering” . I must look that up, but think it should be “rending”. Oh. That means I’m a purist, not a pedant.
Never mind the apostrophe thing. (I do mind, but that’s another story.)
An expression I’ve never understood, and therefore never used, is “the exception that proves the rule.”
You often hear people saying “the exception that proves the rule” but no-one seems sure what ‘proves’ actually means in that context. Some use the expression as though proves means disproves. In other words, they mean an exception weakens, or invalidates a RuIe.
If that was the case, shouldn’t the saying be “The exception that disproves the rule?”
However it seems the expression does in fact mean the opposite of the above. Phew, another triumph for logic. In other words, merely drawing attention to the exception infers that it IS an exception, i.e. out of the ordinary, where the ordinary amounts to ‘the rule’.
For instance, Vorsprung might not always durch Technik, but in pointing that out, the implication is that it normally does. I plucked that example out of ITV, but a better example is here:
”Special leave is given for men to be out of barracks tonight till 11.00 p.m.; "The exception proves the rule" means that this special leave implies a rule requiring men, except when an exception is made, to be in earlier. The value of this in interpreting statutes is plain.”
Okay. That’s cleared that up.
I don’t normally have much time for the Andrew Marr Show. It’s often really boring, like a sort of competitive sport, where the participants have to manoeuvre, side step and take evasive action while pretending not to. Nobody’s fooled. At the end, the studio guests have to feign enthusiasm for a musical item they would normally avoid, and the limited audience number makes the applause sound weak and sarcastic. A kind of accidental damning with faint praise. The best bit of the Andrew Marr show is the paper review, which is usually a bonanza for lefty-bias spotters.
Since Andrew Marr’s debilitating illness, everything about the show has poignancy. The intro that features our hero scootering gracefully through the streets and striding purposefully towards the studio to that music, hauntingly mocks his present-day disability.(The title sequence is a pastiche of the television series The Prisoner.) The poignancy of his one-handed flick through the newspapers and his one-hand-one-leg applause all but pales beside the lopsidedness of his animated facial expressions. You know, that mouth thing he does.
Anyway, today's Marr was the exception that proved the rule. It was quite entertaining, and there was no musical item at all.
The paper review guests were Trevor Phillips of racial equality notoriety, and Anna Soubry MP.
Contrary to expectations, Trevor made quite a few reasonable-sounding observations, while Anna addressed the immigration issue in a manner which must certainly have lost the Conservative party a good few hundred potential votes.
“Immigration is a good thing, and we have to re-educate the public to understand this.” was the gist, and she was perceptibly bouncing up and down in her seat with smugness as she said so. Quite a few people will have been fantasising about punching her in the face, and one of them might have been me.
The irony was exacerbated by the fact that the very next item on the agenda was plucked from a raft of Islam-related outrages in the newspapers, including ‘Anti-gay Uganda minister to head UN’.
Bombarded with news of Islam-related outrages worldwide, confronted with problems caused by mass immigration from certain Islamic countries and they still can’t see the connection?
Oh well, if they can’t even see the irony in that, no wonder they missed the irony of their own paper review ignoring a huge headline about the BBC ignoring something, even while the camera is panning in to show it in all its glory. Instead, Trevor Phillips teasingly jokes over a feature about his fellow guest, next to the clearly visible adjacent headline : “BBC ignoring our referendum pledge”
That brings me to Lord (call me Paddy) Ashdown. I normally disagree with much of what he represents. However, this time he had some valid points to make about the value of the EU, which would have made for a more interesting debate with Nigel Farage than anything Nick Clegg managed to muster. So, again, the exception didn’t exactly prove a rule, but it kind of threw it into focus.
Jimmy Wales seemed like a nice man, if his views on Edward Snowden were unusual, and Terry Gilliam was overshadowed by his cardigan.
Nigel and Andrew had an amiable chat, and it seems that the ‘UKIP is racist’ smear has been more or less put to bed. There was no music, and just as things began to look up, when Nigel joined Anna and Trevor on the sofa, they ran out of time.
What’s the most appropriate expression for that?