Monday, 4 January 2010

The Indefinite Person

  I was meeting some friends in the pub the other day and one of them hadn't shown up.
  'Where's Tom?' I asked.
  'A contrite Tom telephoned to say he couldn't make it.'

That anecdote is, of course, a lie. Nobody really talks like that.

A shocked Sir Alex Ferguson launched a scathing attack on his players after Manchester United were sent crashing out of the FA Cup by Leeds United on yesterday.
   - Today's Times

"A shocked Sir Alex Ferguson" has strange implications. The indefinite article suggests not simply that there are an awful lot of different Alex Ferguson's, but that there are several of them that are shocked of which this particular scathing-attack-launcher was but one. It's rather like talking about an angry goat or a dying hedgehog. It implies a plurality, a population, a species.

The possibility that there are many Alex Fergusons should be taken seriously. I imagine a huge warehouse in which all the red-nosed scotsmen are kept in serried ranks (who is serrying the ranks I don't know, perhaps it's the Glazers). Or maybe it's like that truck in Universal Soldier and all the Fergusons have to be kept frozen or they'll go on a killing spree and cut off everybody's ears.

Indefinite Article - Adjective - Proper Noun is a standard journalistic sentence-opener. Recently I've found a chastened Steven Gerrard, a jubilant Murrayfield, a contrite Mr Cornish and "a visibly deflated Martin O'Neill".

Martin O'Neill

1 comment:

  1. Lets hope we find an inflated Mr Moyes - we need the Points more than the deflated one!