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All-purpose 'appropriate' fails suitability test

[16 Dec 2013] Whenever something dodgy needs to be sweetened with a coating of fudge, the words ‘appropriate’ and ‘inappropriate’ come in very useful.

The security firm G4S – gold medallists at failing to supply enough staff for the London Olympics – said its £24.1m bill to the Ministry of Justice for tagging offenders who were actually untaggable, as they were in jail or dead, was not dishonest or criminal, merely ‘not appropriate’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25001800). 

‘Inappropriate’ is also a non-judgmental softener among social workers and teachers faced with bad, disruptive or antisocial behaviour; and it’s a widespread flak deflector in public-relations work.

One of the finest examples came from the Western Isles Council in 2010 after a high school on Stornoway had erected a large metal cage with a door and bolt to contain an 18-year-old autistic boy who had to be kept apart from other children. His parents had raised £500 towards what they thought would be specialized play equipment and decking for their son to use. Instead, the Nicolson Institute created what looked like an enclosure for wild beasts. The council apologized for the high school’s ‘entirely inappropriate’ conduct. (The Times, 2 November 2010)

Appropriate: suitable, good, correct, proper, right or (more old fashioned) fitting, meet, condign.

Inappropriate: unsuitable, bad, wrong, poor.

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