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Pedants' corner

"Back in 'the eye of the storm' "

(33 Posts)
BradfordLass73 Tue 29-Dec-20 05:46:32

One would have thought a well educated man like Sir Simon Stevens, head of the NHS (he went to Balliol) would have known this expression means a quiet hiatus, a peaceful centre in the midst of a storm, not the raging chaos he went on to describe.

When a prominent person gets it so wrong and publicly, others copy them, as they have with "prodigal" which is now erroneously use to mean returning.

Don't these people have dictionaries?

absent Tue 29-Dec-20 06:19:53

The misuse of prodigal both annoys and amuses me. Indeed, that is often the way with quite a lot of words. Having a dictionary won't help unless you actually use it to check your use or misuse of a word. I have several shelves of dictionaries – not all of them English language – in my home office and look words up pretty much every day. Just in passing, one of the cleverest men and of the stupidest men I ever met went to Balliol.

Grandma70s Tue 29-Dec-20 07:10:50

Sometimes the misuse of words is the result of ignorance of the etymology. That is probably the case with ‘prodigal’ - though I’m not aware of the usage you mention. Teach all children Latin, and a bit about Greek too. Some hope.

People will argue that usage changes over time, which is true, but that doesn’t stop the linguistically aware from being irritated.

growstuff Tue 29-Dec-20 07:17:16

The definition of "in the eye of the storm" in Collins Dictionary is:

"deeply involved in a difficult or controversial situation which affects or interests a lot of people", so I think Stevens used it appropriately.

MaizieD Tue 29-Dec-20 08:16:27

As we're constantly being told that dictionary definitions reflect usage, and that it's not up to dictionary compilers to impose their idea of 'correct' meaning, I think we're fighting a losing battle. It's very annoying but there you go..

I don't understand how one is meant to extract meaning from a communication if the communicator is using a completely different meaning of a word from the meaning used by the communicatee...

fevertree Tue 29-Dec-20 08:18:48

I've always thought that "in the eye of the storm" means smack bang in the midst of chaos, and I'm fairly well educated and definitely well read smile

Grandma 70 perhaps unintentionally, your comment about the linguistically aware being irritated sounds really pompous. ( I hope I've used the word "pompous" correctly grin )

Lucretzia Tue 29-Dec-20 08:33:59

The eye of the storm is calm. But dangerous. So I am unsure about using it in this context

However, I'm not particularly intelligent so who knows

sodapop Tue 29-Dec-20 08:41:04

That's what I thought too fevertree I have been wrong before though when I had the wrong meaning in my head for something like this.

grumppa Tue 29-Dec-20 08:54:39

Boris Johnson went to Balliol, BradfordLass73. ‘Nuff said?

growstuff Tue 29-Dec-20 09:01:38

fevertree

I've always thought that "in the eye of the storm" means smack bang in the midst of chaos, and I'm fairly well educated and definitely well read smile

Grandma 70 perhaps unintentionally, your comment about the linguistically aware being irritated sounds really pompous. ( I hope I've used the word "pompous" correctly grin )

That's how I've always understood the idiomatic usage too. I know the eye of a storm is actually calm, but it's the epicentre of chaos and danger.

Grandma70s Tue 29-Dec-20 09:04:16

fevertree Sorry if it sounded pompous. Not intentional at all. I was just stating what seemed to me to be a fact.

MaizieD Tue 29-Dec-20 09:10:17

Grandma70s

fevertree Sorry if it sounded pompous. Not intentional at all. I was just stating what seemed to me to be a fact.

You didn't sound pompous at all and I entirely agreed with what you said.

Perhaps people could appreciate that there is a difference between pedants and nitpickers 😀

lemsip Tue 29-Dec-20 09:15:15

I think we all knew what he meant by the term though!

Esspee Tue 29-Dec-20 09:22:05

Well no Lemsip, I assumed he meant we were in the calm in the eye of the storm.

Littleannie Tue 29-Dec-20 09:33:47

Absent - is not the correct term 'most stupid', and not 'stupidest'?

Alima Tue 29-Dec-20 09:58:27

Correct me if I am wrong please BradfordLass73 but shouldn’t your penultimate paragraph have read ‘used’ instead of ‘use?’
(I attended Sid Sec Girls so obviously haven’t a clue).

silverlining48 Tue 29-Dec-20 10:06:16

As a graduate of a south east sec mod circa early 60s I think this was a typo on Bradford lass’ part.smile

Callistemon Tue 29-Dec-20 10:49:51

Perhaps he meant he is the only sane and sensible person when all around him are causing chaos, BradfordLass!
grin

It does indeed mean a quiet area of low pressure but with the worst swirling around you and approaching with menace.
So using it to mean immediate chaos is not strictly correct.

He's never encountered a cyclone, obviously.

BradfordLass's typo was probably autocorrect, it always knows best.

eazybee Tue 29-Dec-20 10:50:56

Don't these people have dictionaries?
I am sure he does have dictionaries, but I doubt very much if he has time at present to check every pronouncement before he makes it.
Sir Simon's description is perfectly accurate; the NHS is exactly that; the calm centre of a raging storm.
So easy to criticize from a safe distance.

Callistemon Tue 29-Dec-20 11:02:36

Sir Simon's description is perfectly accurate; the NHS is exactly that; the calm centre of a raging storm.

That is a good interpretation of what he said.

annsixty Tue 29-Dec-20 11:38:45

I have been in the eye of a storm, in Antigua in hurricane season.
After two days locked in my D’s house with no electricity or fresh water everything went quiet and calm.
We knew a lot of damage had been done so SiL suggested a drive to inspect the area.
The sky was yellow, roads flooded and everywhere so silent and eerie, the sense of something going to happen.
When a raging torrent rushing down a road took the car several yards to the left he extricated us and we went home.
Sure enough very shortly it passed over again and roads ,bridges and some property was destroyed.
That to me is the eye of the storm.

Doodledog Tue 29-Dec-20 11:50:34

Callistemon

^Sir Simon's description is perfectly accurate; the NHS is exactly that; the calm centre of a raging storm.^

That is a good interpretation of what he said.

That's how I would read it too.

In any case, the fact that someone went to Balliol means that they had good A level results or went to one of the most prestigious schools - not that they necessarily know everything about everything. I understand that Sir Simon Stevens studied PPE, not etymology or idiomatic language, so his degree and place of study is hardly relevant, is it?

Could this be a thinly disguised dig at the Labour Party by any chance?

Alima Tue 29-Dec-20 11:50:44

Yes of course though do not pedants have to proof read to avoid such pit falls?

nanaK54 Tue 29-Dec-20 12:48:30

If only he had said "we're in deep shit now" there would have been no misunderstanding grin

Lucretzia Tue 29-Dec-20 12:49:30

nanaK54

If only he had said "we're in deep shit now" there would have been no misunderstanding grin

Excellent! smile