Friday, August 22, 2008

David McKie is like this is a better way of writing reported speech

I'm watching a repeat of Armstrong and Miller and shit. And it has reminded me of brilliant column David McKie wrote a couple of weeks ago:

So, far from being an exercise in the slovenly, "I was, like ...", I am now persuaded, is a demonstration of rigour. What the speaker who uses this formula is essentially saying is: "I cannot vouchsafe beyond peradventure that the information with which I am about to present you is truly authentic; but here at least is the essence of what I believe I averred at the time."

What a shame that it is now too late to acquaint Lord Macaulay with this valuable usage. It might have transformed his historiography. It would certainly have radically altered his epic poetry.

He may have been safe enough in asserting that Lars Porsena of Clusium swore by the nine gods that the great house of Tarquin should suffer wrong no more. But soon he goes on to claim: "Then out spake brave Horatius, / The Captain of the gate: / "To every man upon this earth / Death cometh soon or late. / And how can man die better / Than facing fearful odds, / For the ashes of his father / And the temples of his gods?".

Yet these noble sentiments are unlikely to have been noted down by some passing reporter. "Then brave Horatius was, like ..." would surely have served posterity better.

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