In a Word . . . Upset

Don’t get me started on the words ‘organic’ or ‘fulsome’

 

Some words upset me. Such as “organic”. I may even be allergic to it. Whenever I see it, in the supermarket or wherever, I veer in the opposite direction. By reflex. The reason is simple. When I see “organic”, I hear “rip-off”.

Of course, as our lawyer advises, this is just me and has nothing whatever to do with the reality whereby everyone involved with growing organic vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat or whatever you’re eating yourself, does so from the highest motivation and out of deepest respect for our good health and that of the planet.

I can’t help it. I grew up in a world where there was only organic. We kept slugs off our vegetables – well, tried – with salty water while our very natural pigs and cows supplied the “fertiliser” on which they, and we, thrived.

So normal was this I can still remember the first time anything tinned appeared on our table. It was mackerel.

Another word that really gets my back up is that little fraud “fulsome”. How it has got away with it, and for so long, remains one of the great ongoing mysteries of life.

Here is Taoiseach Micheál Martin last month, speaking “in terms of” his concerns about Sinn Féin: “Their attitude to the European Union which is not as fulsome or as supportive as one might think.”

Or former European commissioner Phil Hogan last summer, as he tried to survive Golfgate: “I thus offer this fulsome and profound apology, at this difficult time for all people, as the world as a whole combats Covid-19.”

Good try, but it didn’t work.

Or this intriguing tale from Killaloe District Court, sitting in Ennis, last October where the defendant, charged with assaulting his girlfriend, was cleared after he explained that he was just carrying out an exorcism on her.

The judge found the girlfriend, who said she didn’t know what caused the bruising on her body, had been “less than fulsome” in evidence.

Yet another learned one taken in by “fulsome”, that cuckoo word that takes possession of innocent people’s assumptions but actually means “insincere, excessive, effusive”. Samuel Johnson, who prepared the first dictionary, defined it as meaning “nauseous; offensive” and “of a rank and odious smell”.

Abandon “fulsome” all ye who value plain English.

Upset, “to throw into mental decomposure”, from Old English uppe + settan

inaword@irishtimes.com

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