Tag Archives: Daily Mail

Weasel Words: regularly

Imagine the scene as I drive to work through the rolling countryside of Dorset, through the winding villages of Abbotsbury, the sea heavily to my right and Radio 4 in the background.

“Half of Britons eat porridge regularly,” intone the dulcet tones of John Humphreys or some other lark-minded presenter.

What?

Half of Britons? Regularly?

Sounds like a brilliant news item! Porridge is a fantastic food: economical, tasty and healthy full of slow-release carbohydrates – and a smell which takes me back to my granny’s farmhouse kitchen when I was six. I’m not that keen on the taste I have to say but a divine, comforting smell! Like a thick and heavy woollen jumper!

But really? Half of the country? Regularly?

John Humphrys, or which ever presenter it was, seems also to have questioned the language. What did regularly mean? Apparently, something in the region of ten times a year, less than once a month.

“Regularly” is one of those weasel words which can mean anything you want it to. After all, Santa arrives regularly, albeit once a year! But for a breakfast for which there is an opportunity to take it 365 times a year, I don’t think 10 times classes as regularly: that’s 2.7% of the opportunities available (not including the opportunities to take porridge at other times of the day!). At least Santa arrives on 100% of the available opportunities (even the naughty list receive coal from him and, with energy prices as they are, are probably quids-in!)

So where does its weasliness come from? Etymologically, “regularly” never denoted frequency: from the Latin regula and regularis meaning rules and guidance, the word “regular” actually referred to those who lived according to religious rules in contrast to the secular life.

“Regular” and the adverbial form “regularly”, therefore, have meant, since the fifteenth century, “according to order and at the appropriate time”.

I’m not sure when the idea of frequency has been accepted as part of the meaning of “regular” but it appears to have attached itself to the word almost as an addendum: to occur according to an ordered routine (and reasonably often).

And so it is that a weasel word is born! Want to suggest that something rare is common? Use the word “regularly”! Want to interpret your statistics positively? Use the word “regularly”!

Anyway, for porridge enthusiasts, the Daily Mail also ran the same article here.

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Teacher Bashing

Related to, but separate from, the GCSE English row – according to Ofqual’s report 42% of all schools nationwide have reported results in excess of 10% worse than expected in June 2012 –

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there is a huge culture of what could be called ‘teacher bashing‘ in the media and Government focussing primarily around the following three characters:

Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove

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Chief Inspector of Schools and Head of Ofsted, Michael Wilshaw

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and our Prime Minister, David Cameron.

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What a delightful Shakespearean Three Witches these could make! “Fair is foul and foul is fair“… Which brings us back around to the GCSE C grades again!

Certainly many leading teachers’ unions – notably the NUT – have observed and decried the media and Governmental rhetoric of failure and blame that it levelled at teachers. And it genuinely is hard to think of any other profession that is so frequently and so venomously derided in our national papers! And there is a nice piece in the Guardian here calling for Gove to resist this “declinist narrative”.

So I figured it might be interesting, informative and or depressing to just record as many examples as I can find over the next few weeks as we all return to school.

We can start just today with

1st September 2012, Telegraph “Bad teachers ‘blight children’s futures’ warns Gove” is reported here

And David Cameron’s comments in the Mail on Sunday today 2nd September 2012 here. The full text of which can be read here.

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And Michael Wilshaw waded into the GCSE uproar with this saying that

The teaching’s often not good enough, the leadership often isn’t good enough, and the progress and the outcomes of children aren’t good enough

Click here for a video of his performance on The Andrew Marr Show.

I don’t imagine I’ll be able to record or link to every example of coverage in the media that denigrates, undermines or devalues the profession but I’ll try to keep an eye on things. Any links that you guys want to point out that I may miss, please comment and point me in the right direction!