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Passives fox House

[16 Oct 2010] When things go belly-up, the first linguistic line of defence is often the impersonal passive voice, eg ‘A mistake has been made’ not ‘I have made a mistake’. Admitting a blunder seems especially hard for politicians. So when Dr Liam Fox resigned as defence minister recently, it was to the impersonal passive that he resorted, telling the Commons: ‘The ministerial code has been found to be broken.’

This rare double passive is a sure sign of a scrambled mind, but the Daily Telegraph’s columnist Andrew Gimson was pitiless: ‘It seems the ministerial code was intact when Dr Fox settled down for the night, but somehow fell off his bedside table while he was asleep and when he woke in the morning was found to have been smashed into a thousand pieces.’ [MC]

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