Words & Stuff

Quite contrary to popular demand, I’m returning to the subject of phrases we use without really giving much thought to their meaning or indeed whether they mean anything at all – such as “Cheap at half the price”, the example I gave in my first post on this subject.

What brought me back to this subject was hearing someone refer to “false pretences”. It’s a very common phrase used by highly intelligent and articulate people, and even by me. The meaning is clear, so I suppose this is more of a tautology: could there ever be such as thing as “True pretences”?

Then, last night I was re-reading one of my favourite history books: The Common Stream by Rowland Parker, and came across the phrase “at the latter end of the thirteenth century.” Now it’s a great book and he’s a fluent, erudite, witty writer – but did the thirteenth century have a “former end”? I suppose you could call the start of the thirteenth century the former end, but if I had been his editor I might have tentatively suggested that he delete the word “latter”. To which he might have very reasonably have asked, “Haven’t you got anything better to do?”


I couldn’t think of an appropriate picture to go with today’s topic, so I chose this. From Monkey World in Dorset, one of my favourite places in the world.


About ramblesofawriter

Writer, thinker, tea drinker.
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4 Responses to Words & Stuff

  1. chloefb says:

    Nice photo! I spend an unnecessary amount of time wondering if there are opposites to words that sound as if they should have opposites. Can you be a fidel as well as an infidel? Can you be combobulated?

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