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THE NEW BRITISH prime minister, Boris Johnson has made Jacob Rees-Mogg leader of the House of Commons. I’d have thought a prime minister would be the leader, and historically often was. But since 1942, the leader of the House of Commons has been variously the First Lord of the Treasury, First Lord of the Privy Seal, or First Lord of Something or Other. Rees-Mogg gets another oft-used title: Lord President of the Council.
”Honourable Member for the 18th Century.” According to Kevin Rawlinson in The Guardian, July 26, 2019, Rees-Mogg’s reputation for formality and upper-class eccentricity has earned him the nickname “honourable member for the 18th century.” The Guardian also had good fun with its headline “The Comma Touch: Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Aides Send Language Rules to Staff.”
Palko Karasz in The New York Times, July 27, 2019, tells a similar story: “Jacob Rees-Mogg, New U.K. Minister, Greets Staff With an Imperial Edict.” In particular, among other dictates is one requiring the Imperial System of measures: inches, miles, (Imperial) gallons, and pounds, not those Frenchy centimeters, kilometers, liters, and kilograms.
Writes Karasz in The New York Times, “His side-parted hair, his languid speaking style, and his baggy double-breasted suits give Mr. Rees-Mogg, a longtime lawmaker, an incongruously prewar air, observers say.”
Prohibited Words. SimanaitisSays editress Wife Dottie concurs with some of Rees-Mogg’s prohibited English usage: No “hopefully.” Not “too many ‘I’s.” And never “due to.”
My guess is that Rees-Mogg perceives “unacceptable” and “disappointment” as not sufficiently optimistic politically. Is “very” considered boastful? Does “I note/understand your concern” sound like a platitude? And “meet with” is redundant; purists say the “with” dies quietly.
But, jeez, “equal”??
David Shariatmadari writes about “equal” in The Guardian, July 29, 2019, “What Jabob Rees-Mogg’s Language Rules Reveal About Him.” Shariatmadari says, “Could it be that Rees-Mogg sees it as redolent of various politically correct catchphrases, like equal opportunities, equal rights or (probably his biggest bugbear) equal marriage, which he voted against on seven separate occasions?”
Rees-Mogg also requires a double space after a full stop or period.
He also wants non-titled male members of parliament to be given the Esquire suffix, Esq., after their names. Women, apparently, have no such honourific. Or honour.
Reactions. Thomas Jones writes in the LRB Blog, July 27, 2019: “Apart from the idiocy about esquires and Imperial measurements, the rules in and of themselves are fairly innocuous: don’t use ‘hopefully,’ ‘due to,’ ‘ongoing,’ etc. Rees-Mogg could have been given the list by his prep school English teacher.”
Jones continues, “There’s a weird injunction never to use a comma after ‘and’ (Twitter is bristling with counter-examples) and, chances are, that’s a hangover from prep school too.”
Edictician, Heal Thyself. The Guardian, July 26, 2019, already cited here reports that the official transcript of parliamentary proceedings contains more than 700 instances of Rees-Mogg breaking his own rules.
And, according to The Times, July 28, 2019, Rees-Mogg’s new book, The Victorians: Twelve Titans Who Forged Britain, contains 10 of his prohibited 12 words.
Dominic Sandbrook reviewed The Victorians in The Times, May 18, 2019: “… the book is terrible, so bad, so boring, so mind-bogglingly banal that if it had been written by anybody else it would never have been published.”
The English have always appreciated humour, though. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019