Books by Patrick J McCormick
Blogs by Patrick J McCormick
12/7/2004 7:26:05 PM
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How often do we hear phrases which people use without thinking of what they are saying or writing.
At work I had a habit of using some expressions from my youth in Ireland and some of my associates often thought them quaint and in some cases they would get repeated but never to the point where they would become a cliche. From time to time I will think of one of them and I thought it might be an idea to write them down as I did.
One phrase was always made in reply to someone who would ask for example "Can I go for lunch" and my reply would be the one I heard from my Primary school headmaster Mr James Smith, "I don't know if you can or not, but if you can you may" It was not l;ong before they got the message and came in to say "May I go for lunch". It was very gratifying recently on a trip to Wal-Mart to see the message on the back of their blue jackets "How may I help You" instead of the more common misuse "How can I help You".
People will get into habits of misusing phrases without realizing what in fact they are saying, and often repeating phrases they have heard others using. I think we have to stop sometimes and think about what we are saying or writing. A very good example of this comes to mind from my days as an assistant office manager in England. The district manager who had a masterfull command of English frequently came into the office and always got all the mail first. Our head office staff in Yorkshire had a habit of starting all their letters with the phrase "I have pleasure in informing you...." and I could see the district manager grimace and say "I wonder how much pleasure it really does gives them". Having gone through the mail he would separate it into three bundles, one for himself, one he would give to the Office Manager and the third he would give to me.
One morning when I was going through the bundle he had given me I came across one of these letters, and as I read further I had to laugh. I went into the office manager and asked him if he thought the District manager really wanted me to look after this letter, and when he read it he had to laugh as well and he suggested I take it into the District manager. I went in and ask him if he had really intended me to look after it. As he looked down his nose and over his well trimed moustache in the best tradition of a British army officer, he took the letter from me and he also had to laugh. The letter started with the phrase "I have pleasure in informing you that one of our mortgagors Mr. ...... died last night" This letter was received shortly before Christmas. Needless to say he replied to the originator of the letter using his great command of the language to gently tear the individual to shreds. We never got to see the letter he wrote but we heard everyone in the head office did. We never got any more letters from head office opening with that phrase again.
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More Blogs by Patrick J McCormick
A Life of Its Own - Friday, November 03, 2006
Ultimate Terror, Ultimate Sacrifice - Friday, November 03, 2006
The question of Irak - Thursday, November 02, 2006
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The Lone Lady-of-the-Night in the Cold - Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Intimate Moments with a Special Person - Tuesday, March 22, 2005
A Division Between Friends - Tuesday, March 22, 2005
The touching of my heart - Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Snowing again and the kid next door is hiding - Tuesday, March 01, 2005
UP to my $#%* in snow again - Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Hockey: The Non-Season - Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Why do so many people feel the need to be on a bandwagon? - Monday, February 14, 2005
A Belated New Years Resolution for the Silent Majority - Tuesday, February 08, 2005
The passing of Pudge our much loved pug - Saturday, February 05, 2005
Is it a miracle - Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Out of the mouths of babes - Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Snowing again - Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Man's Best Friend. - Tuesday, January 25, 2005
How to Clear the Snow from Your Driveway - Monday, January 24, 2005
Depressing Weather - Monday, January 24, 2005
How Society is Changing - Monday, December 20, 2004
A Strange Christmas. What a Change this Year will be. - Saturday, December 18, 2004
Misused Phrases - Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Christmas Remembered - Monday, December 06, 2004
A Family Devastated - Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Jim, Where Are You? - Wednesday, August 11, 2004