Thursday, March 13, 2008

New Meanings 2

Another new meaning. Everybody is suddenly saying, 'do the math'. It's been picked up from the American election campaign. We don't say 'math', we say 'maths'. I think it used to be 'crunch the numbers' or something. That, too, was American. I'm not convinced of the need for 'do the math', but, if it is needed, I think we should go for 'do the sums' or, possibly, 'perpetrate the calculus'. I suppose the meaning intended here is , 'Don't be stupid, the numbers make the situation perfectly clear'. But, if put like that, one would immediately suspect the speaker of being a fool.

8 comments:

  1. There is a host of illiterate, annoying phrases which have come out of America in recent times. I hesitate to write any down because many are so catchy and pervasive that merely to repeat them risks perpetuating them. But why, Bryan, have you particularly alighted on 'math' (which I agree is infuriating) when for example, 'nine eleven', 'twenty four seven' and the inability to use ordinals 'day one, day two' etc.. are just as annoying or even more so.
    The sadness is that this is bound to result in people being progressively less able to express themselves subtly and precisely in language and becoming more isolated as individuals. Maybe that is the aim of individualism?

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  2. The implication that someone hasn't done the proper calculations but working on a pure guess or suppositions. 'Do the maths' (or sums) as a put down is older than I am though it is more relevant in engineering situations - I imagine some politician or business head picked it up while sitting in on an engineering project committee.
    'Do your homework' would be much better put down.

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  3. I've been "doing the math" all morning, trying to figure out how I managed to get stung for a £150 dinner for my girlfriend last night, despite the fact she was celebrating a big redundancy payout. I think Ian's putdown applies rather well here.

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  4. I reckon these phrases are fine so long as you say them in a comedy American accent and hold up your fingers to indicate heavily ironic quote marks (sorry, quotation marks). 'Go figure' - that's a good one too.

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  5. "Lovely. Really nice. Ta-ta and cheerio!"

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  6. One was tempted to comment "Hairy muff!" but after observing that the gormless happy clappy brigade, one fears that the toss-pots would throw a wobbler.

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  7. If 'do the math!' galls, the answer may be to reply 'speak the English!'...

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