Mean what you say

I was reminded of the following when reading that a Judge has issued a final ultimatum to Pete Doherty

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. ‘They’ve a temper, some of them – particularly verbs: they’re the proudest – adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs – however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

‘Would you tell me, please,’ said Alice, ‘what that means?’

‘Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. ‘I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

‘That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

When you tell someone there are consequences to their behaviour, the word “if” has meaning only when you follow through.

Anyone who had dogs or children knows the importance of meaning what you say – how come our judges haven’t grasped this basic fact of language?  Presumably they think like Humpty Dumpty.


  1. Judy Gombita says:

    I have this sudden urge to reread Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, plus Through the Looking-Glass, as you’ve reminded me of how brilliant Lewis Carroll was at literary nonsense. Oh that this judge was half as clever!

    A high school English teacher, Mrs. Rusty Ross, was famous for her phrases and life lessons. I recall one of them to be:

    “‘If’ is the biggest little word in the world.”

    (My all-time favourite was her original gem, “It’s only people with defective finger tips who feel badly.” Whenever I tell people that one, they can instantly understand that what they really feel is bad. If only Doherty would feel bad….)

  2. Some of those classic children’s books are so well written – I read the Waterbabies again recently and it has some brilliant passages, as well as being a tool of social change against child chimney-sweeps.

    With Doherty, I think the media could also just stop reporting these pathetic court cases. It seems the judges are dazzled by the coverage – he’s just another junky.

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