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17 May 2012

Brief boobs #6: “Storm in a teacup/pot”

As with Brief Boobs #5 (5 April), it is the Financial Times which is at fault today—which is surprising for such an excellent newspaper. An article on this morning’s website describes the crisis at J.P. MorganChase, the once “white-shoe” (i.e. Protestant) bank in New York, as a “storm in a teapot”.

     What on earth are they thinking about? Every British schoolboy knows—as we used to be allowed to say before we surrendered our language to the PC kommissars—that it is a “storm in a teacup”. The whole point of the saying is that it is a question of making a huge fuss about a trifle, much ado about nothing, as Shakespeare might have put it, had he been working on the banking news desk at the FT today.
     A teapot is a big thing which, because it has a lid, can in theory allow highly localised storms to take place within it. Perhaps this already happens, just without any of us noticing the fact due to the presence of the lid. It is of the essence of lids that they keep a lid on things. But a storm which can be confined to a tiny, open-topped vessel like a teacup, must be a small, unimportant thing.
     Perhaps the FT has outsourced its sub-editing to a country which does not employ the “graduates” of British schools—whether boys or girls—in newspaper correcting roles. If so, it deserves censure. It is a sensible thing to save costs where they can be reduced without compromising product integrity. But when the product, which in a newspaper is words, suffers from cost-cutting it is time do something serious about it.
     But what if it the country that provides the sub-editors is, as I suspect it is, Britain itself? That would be a sign of the times. Next we can expect headlines like “Storm in a jerrycan”, “Storm in a tank” or, if the sub-editors have been reading too much popular German literature on the bus down from Hackney, “Storm in a drang”.
     If education is the citadel of culture, and if British culture is, as many critics suggest, suffering from the effects of decades of egalitarian, value-destroying socialism, then we can expect more of this sort of thing in the future because, as every Russian schoolboy knows: “There are no citadels that Bolsheviks cannot storm.”
     And that, it would seem, includes the Financial Times.

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