What do they mean...

7th November 2003 at 00:00
It is tempting to believe that this refers to speaking while breathing in, a sort grown-up equivalent to that impossible boy scout trick of smiling and whistling at all times. It could, of course, refer to language immediately after breathing in, which could mean anything and everything: par for the course, as it is being recommended by our betters. In practice, if the breathing in is deliberate (and probably audible) rather than the automatic kind, the language which follows will most likely be along the lines of "Maurice, I'm telling you for the last time to stop supergluing the first years to the school railings."

Now, Maurice may be inspired to obey you, and who knows, it may have been the intake of breath which convinced him. This brings us nearer to the cutting-edge brilliance of Inspirational Language Theory. The boffins have discovered that language is a form of communication, and when used in a social environment can have an effect on other people. Thus, if you say to someone, "Maurice, you are a staggering genius", he will glow with pride and go forth to do great things - especially if his name is Maurice. If, on the other hand, you say, "Maurice, you are a snivelling worm who will never amount to anything", his little psyche will be crushed, and he will burrow into the ground clutching a handkerchief.

In short, positive language is an effective way of spurring people on to maximise their potential (as the boffins would say). Sadly, the boffins are silent on the question of what form of language would inspire Maurice not to superglue first years . But then, their own little boffinettes don't go to that sort of school.

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