Majority rules

Susan Ronnie Lewis wonders:

Must every majority be vast? If I ever heard a speaker describe one any other way, I’d probably cease listening to the rest of the sentence.

2 thoughts on “Majority rules

  1. And in the same vein as “vast majority”, can someone please put to rest the now well established “general consensus”?

  2. Susan Ronnie Lewis wondered if there other majorities than ‘vast’. I’ve seen ‘narrow’, ‘close’, ‘tight’, slight’, overwhelming and a few other adjectives applied to various majorities where warranted.

    On a slight tangeant; an interesting example of playing with the concept of ‘majority’ comes from Russian history where Lenin’s faction gained a minute majority in one particular meeting and hereafter named themselves the ‘Bolsheviks’ meaning Majority and their opposing faction the ‘Mensheviks’ meaning minority. It was ironic considering in other meetings and in overall numbers the Bolsheviks were in fact a minority faction group within a minority group!

    Although I agree with the majority of comments and suggestions here I do have some sympathy for the struggling writers of some cliches because –

    1) Cliches become cliche for a reason. Some phrases are so effective and are so frequently used that they become difficult to phrase differently or better – especially without sounding jarring or belaboured. When people wish to ban an overused catchphrase, I urge them to suggest improved alternatives. (Alas,in turn and time, these can become cliches themselves.)

    2) Sometimes its just the truth. Example : the “quiet mass murderer”. If the bloke (or woman although that’s rarer) really was quiet, really did keep to himself, what are the neighbours (and later papers) meant to say?

    Do we want people to lie and defame, even possibly help convict a (potentially innocent) suspect purely for the sake of avoiding a cliche as one person here suggested? I understand the person was joking, I laughed too, but on earnest reflection, NOT a good idea! Priorities everyone, cliche avoidance isn’t ahead of life and death. The margin may be narrow but it exists! 😉

    If a crash really did sound like a freight train or blood came out in a puddle (or pool) around a corpse .. and police /rescuers do have to sort, sift, or comb through the rubble of disaster sites…

    I fully agree the media can often find superior ways of phrasing any given sentence or relating a situation and can avoid the worst abuses of language. I agree they can be intellectually lazy, over-hasty and prone to grammatical and other writing quality errors – but there are limitations on what they can do and how much we can fairly demand from them.

    3) Some cliches are so engrained that they become the first thing in people’s minds – and hence tongues or fingertips. Newspapers have to quote in certain situations – naturally they can be selective with what comments are quote but if all they have from witnesses or their subjects are cliche quotes – what can they do?

    Please don’t hound me out for saying this but .. when the sport star says “we’ll take it game by game, we’re on fire but it aint over till the obese diva performs” or when the witness says “The murderer was quiet” or the victim says “There was a rumble like a freight train / the bodies lay in pools of blood /… ad nauseam. What do you expect the journo to do?

    Say something like : “Sorry sir, your quote was too cliched – can you retell your traumatic experience in a more novel, imaginative way? Oh stop crying, you split an infinitive and we can’t quote you unless you improve your grammar! Even if you are the sole survivor!”

    Finally, the English language is living and evolving. This can be for the better, worse and merely different. Reading H.G. Well’s classic ‘War of the Worlds’ I came upon an unintentionally hilarious line where a refugee left his home “ejaculating furiously!” Ejaculate used to mean speak – I don’t recommend using the word in that sense today! English is a hybrid tongue; it is vigourous and dynamic. Where change benefits communication and shared understanding we gain by adopting it, where it impairs that, the obverse is true. Grammar et cetera need be judged accordingly.

    As Socrates said : “All things in moderation including moderation.”

    Whilst I do appreciate, enjoy and agree with much of what’s here I’m merely saying I have a samll degree of sympathy and understanding for the culprits too.