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Steve Savage Publishers Ltd
CoverThe Magic of Words

Humorous and Serious

James A Simpson
sample extracts...

Aware of the danger of expressing negative comments about someone in a testimonial, a director wrote of a former worker who had constantly skived off, "A man like him is hard to find."

A husband and wife went to consult a marriage guidance counsellor. "In our six years of marriage," the husband complained, we have not been able to agree about anything." "It has been seven years," the wife corrected.

Chic Murray told how one night, having rung the bell of a small Bed and Breakfast on the Ayrshire Coast, a lady appeared at the upstairs window. "What do you want?" she asked. When Chic replied, "I would like to stay here," she replied, "Well stay there," and banged the window shut.

The story goes that when one loyal member of the Tartan Army was job-hunting, in reply to the interviewer's question, "What's your ultimate goal?" he replied, "Archie Gemmell's goal against Holland in the World Cup." His answer was probably the reason he did not get the job.

A driver who had been involved in an accident gave the impression in a letter to his insurance company that he had three eyes. "I had one eye on a parked car, another on an approaching lorry and another on the woman driver behind."
Another driver wrote, "I collided with a stationary truck coming the other way. The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him."

Euphemisms have unfortunately become part of the political spin-doctor's armoury. For centuries, euphemisms have been used to screen the most awful realities. When, in Shakespeare's play, Macbeth informs his wife that Duncan is about to visit their castle, she immediately responds: "He that is coming must be provided for." It sounds so considerate, but what it really means is cold-blooded, premeditated murder, cutting the king's throat while he sleeps. Pleasant words can mask very evil actions.

What a genius Shakespeare had for words. He made the first recorded use of hundreds of what are now everyday words -- accommodation, assassination, obscene, pre-meditated, frugal, dwindle, leapfrog and barefaced, to mention only a few. He was also the source of many common phrases -- one fell swoop, play fast and loose, brevity is the soul of wit, salad days, knit your brows, the milk of human kindness, method in his madness, being cruel to be kind, wild goose chase, wearing one's heart on one's sleeve.

Are we the cruellest of all animals? We beat eggs. We whip cream. We strike bargains. We kill with a look. We blind others to the truth, and all the while we are just trying to kill time.