The aim of this blog is to serve as a meeting point to those who study or have studied English philology and, more broadly, to all those who love literature and language.

9 Apr 2009


Once again The Engine Room calls our attention to a linguistic oddity. This time JD, the author of this blog, exposes his perplexity in dealing with what is and what is not polite according with the BBC guide of style. We may agree or not with the British broadcasting channel, but what is sure is that the joke is funny:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson go camping and pitch their tent under the stars. In the middle of the night, Holmes wakes his companion up and says: "Watson, look up at the stars and tell me what you deduce." Watson says: "I see millions of stars and maybe quite a few planets among them. It may be true that a few of the planets are quite like Earth and there might be life on them." Holmes replies: "Watson, you bloody fool*! Somebody has stolen our tent!"

Well, the guys at the BBC consider that:

*Bloody is a medium-strong swear word, used to give emotional emphasis to something that you are saying. It should not be used in polite situations. For polite conversation, substitute: You stupid idiot!

No doubt politeness is a great thing!


  1. I'd never had thought about the possibility of polite rudeness! Would it sound less offensive to the addressee?

  2. I think it´s probably the opposite; the more one word is used the more it´s meaning is weared. So, 'elitist' insults may result even harsher. I couldn´t imagine nothing worst than to be insulted by the educated Oscar Wilde, for example.
    Juan F.