Tuesday, 27 October 2009


Branding cattle is a cruel yet oddly pleasurable business. You take a piece of steel that has been bent into a distinctive shape, often so that it spells out a word. Then you heat it over a fire until it is glowing red. Now, get somebody to hold the cow still. Now press the burning metal against the living flesh and watch the scar form.

These from recent newspapers:

Hugh Grant has been branded a love-rat by his secret Polish girlfriend
Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC branded the PC, 24, a "show-off"
Griffin branded 'bigot' by rabbi's son

Nobody has ever used the word branded in spoken English as a synonym for called. I must therefore happily assume all of these cases to be of literal branding, and shall probably have to take the precaution of disposing of my secret Polish girlfriend.

(As an incidental aside, there was once a rancher in Texas named Maverick who refused to brand his cattle. He did this not through some soppy sympathy for his bovine brethren, but because he was therefore able to claim all unbranded cattle as his own. So notorious did his practice become that Texan politicians who didn't belong to any political party were called Maverick. Hence the modern meaning of the word and the character so touchingly portrayed by Tom Cruise in Top Gun)

Hugh Grant is recovering in hospital

1 comment:

  1. The headline I'm waiting for is Brand branded.