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

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

Leave a comment

Have your say!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.