30th July 2019
Witten by Javier Maquieira
Today, Javier Maquieira ponders the weight of vernacular as MP Jacob Rees-Mogg implements a list of rules dictating precise language to be used and avoided in his office.
We rarely consider the effect of language on our daily lives. We use words out of habit, inherit expressions from our elders and pals, and sometimes employ phrases incorrectly.
As a non-native English speaker, I often rack my brains trying to find connotations in some of the jargon I hear around me, only to find out how straightforward English actually is compared to my Galician and Spanish mother tongues. Of course, the Scottish accent is a completely different subject; something no English teacher prepared me for, but a delicacy I’ve learnt to embrace in (almost) all its forms.
Oddly enough, one accent that does ring a bell every time I hear it is that of the new leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council, Jacob Rees-Mogg. As many fellow Spaniards may remember from the times when English instructors used their tape players to teach us pronunciation, Rees-Mogg’s speech conforms to the most far-fetched version of those recorded voices. A timeless intonation that would blend beautifully with that of Dame Maggie Smith over high tea in Downton Abbey.
Unlike darling Maggie, however, the Conservative MP isn’t playing the role of an octogenarian countess living through the post-war downfall of the British aristocracy (although readers may be forgiven for believing he sometimes acts with the same sense of entitlement). In fact, right after becoming part of Boris Johnson’s government cabinet last week, Rees-Mogg issued a style guide to all staff members in his new office banning certain words and implementing a list of rules that range from referring to all non-titled males as “esquire” to using imperial measurements.
It comes as no surprise that the list prompted a number of brilliant responses on social media. But the anachronism of the Right Honourable may as well be setting the tone for Johnson’s new “war cabinet” and its grand pretensions.
With the PM under growing pressure to avoid a break-up of the United Kingdom due to a no-deal withdrawal from the European Union, foreign secretary Dominic Raab admitted there are government plans to introduce direct rule in Northern Ireland “so there’s no vacuum” in case of no deal – a move that would effectively suspend the Good Friday Agreement. I worry that Johnson’s cabinet is already showing an alarming tendency towards authoritarian, paternalistic, and inflexible language and a similarly unyielding approach to solving a disintegration problem of their own making.
Language is very revealing indeed. For a moment, I had wished Brexit was included in Rees-Mogg’s list of banned words.
A shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California left at least four people dead – including the suspect and a six-year-old boy – and eleven other people injured. The gunman, shot by police a minute after opening fire, was reportedly armed with an AK-47 rifle purchased legally in the state of Nevada. The FBI is working with local police to investigate the shooter’s motive. Posts published on an Instagram account bearing the suspect’s name showed attendees wandering around the event and mentioned a white supremacist book. China has condemned the recent incidents in Hong Kong as “evil and criminal acts” and urged the territory to punish anti-government protests in accordance with the law. The Chinese government, which called on the Hong Kongese to reject violence, blamed “irresponsible figures in Western countries” for escalating tensions in order to stop Chinese development. Despite Beijing’s condemnation of the protests on other occasions, this is thought to be the first time an intervention by China shows the official opinion of the country’s top leadership. Boko Haram extremists are believed to be behind the death of more than 60 people in Nigeria. The shooting, which took place as the victims left a funeral, is the deadliest attack on civilians so far this year and is thought to be in retaliation for an incident between the terrorist group and villagers in the area two weeks ago. In their goal to impose strict Islamist rule in the region and neighbouring countries like Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, the extremists have also carried out mass abductions of girls and used young men and women in explosive belts to attack highly populated areas.
Business & Economy
Pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer has reached a deal with generics drugmaker Mylan to create a new off-patent pharma group projected to generate $20bn in revenues. The merger, which is also aimed at expanding the combined firm’s reach into China and other emerging economies, will marry Pfizer’s Upjohn division – which includes best-seller products like Lipitor and Viagra – with Mylan’s new generics and biosimilars. According to Pfizer, the tie-up will also allow it to concentrate on the production of innovative medicines of higher value. (£) An independent study by the Social Metrics Commission found that more than four million people in the UK are in a situation of deep poverty, as their income is at least 50% below the official breadline and they struggle to access the most basic living products and services. Seven million people also appear to be trapped in persistent poverty, defined as living in poverty conditions for at least two of the previous three years. The commission blames austerity measures for the findings, which it says has hindered two decades of anti-poverty policy. The study echoes other findings concerned about the emergence of extreme poverty in Britain. According to an investigation by The Times, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) reportedly ignored warnings coming from its American counterpart, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), over the integrity of safety checks on Boeing aircraft after the launch of the 737 Max programme. A 2012 report by a US investigator claimed that FAA employees had complained of conflicts of interest between the American watchdog and Boeing – information that was not considered by the Easa board, as their meeting records suggest. Both watchdogs have a cooperation agreement in place under which anything certified by one is rubber-stamped by the other with little further examination. (£)
Whats happened yesterday?
London stocks jumped on Monday helped by news of fresh mergers and acquisitions, but Sterling sank to its weakest point in two years as markets reflected the rising chance of a chaotic UK exit from the EU. The FTSE 100 rose 1.82% at 7,686.61, while the pound was weaker both against the dollar by 1.345% to 1.2218 and the euro by 1.44% at 1.0968. Boris Johnson declared Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement with the EU “dead” during his visit to Scotland, further warning that he would only meet EU leaders to discuss a revised deal if they agreed to reopen the accord and scrap the Irish backstop. Currency strategists have pointed out that the pound will remain under pressure as long as the current government’s hard Brexit rhetoric continues. Just Eat’s stocks (up 22.72%) soared after a preliminary merger agreement between the British food delivery company and its Dutch competitor Takeaway.com was reached yesterday. With both sides still working on the remaining details, the shareholder exchange between both companies would see Just Eat and Takeaway.com controlling 52.2% and 47.8% of the new company respectively. London Stock Exchange Group (up 15.34%) was also on the rise following the announcement that it plans to buy financial data and trading platform provider Refinitiv for $27bn in a move that analysts have welcomed, despite the fact that it could bring significant regulatory issues. In Wall Street, the S&P 500 was 0.16% weaker at 3,020.97, while the Dow Jones was up 0.11% at 27,221.35. The Nasdaq Composite close on the red after finishing 0.44% lower at 8,293.33. Mixed performance is explained as investors expected the Federal Reserve to announce a rate cut and trade talks between China and the US were projected to start the following day.
Whats happening today?
Games Workshop Nwf
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UK Economic Announcements
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Int. Economic Announcements
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Columns of Note
Over the weekend, the Financial Times editorial board commented that the holding of new elections in Spain – after prime minister Pedro Sánchez failed to form a government as a result of two unsuccessful confidence votes – would not provide a different outcome and would only hinder reform momentum. Following the decision of the far-left Podemos party to reject Sánchez’s offer of a deputy prime minister’s role and three ministerial posts for a coalition government, the PM has until September 23 to avoid the fourth general election since 2015. In a country faced with rising political polarisation and an uncompleted economic reform, the editorial board at the FT concluded that the liberal Ciudadanos party, which opposed Sánchez’s premiership bid because of differences over Catalonia, should agree on a coalition with the elected PM in order to secure a stable majority and proceed with Spain’s political and economic reform. (£) The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall argues that Vladimir Putin’s violent treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and pro-democracy demonstrators in Moscow last week are a sign of the weaknesses of his regime rather than of the Russian leader’s strength. Affected by Putin’s diplomatic gambling, global opportunism, and decreasing political popularity, Russia is being increasingly exposed to the impact of endemic corruption, worrying economic trends, and money squandering. In Tisdall’s view, Putin’s actions are ultimately driven by panic and a “sense of mortality.”
Did you know?
The Walt Disney Company is the second-largest producer of explosive devices, right behind the US department of defence.
House of Commons
On recess until 3 September 2019
House of Lords
On recess until 3 September 2019
On recess until 2 September 2019