Friday 20 November 2009

The Famous Lord Reith

Lord Reith, the first Director-General of the BBC, was listening to his radio one day when he heard someone described as a "famous lawyer". So he sent a memo which read thuslyly:

The word famous. If a person is famous, it is superfluous to point out the fact; if he is not, then it is a lie. The word is not to be used by the BBC.

O God, I was born too late. Well, to be fair (which I never am), you could usefully say that somebody was famous in the past or that somebody is famous in Uruguay. So Reith, though not wrong, was not completely right. I am not certain, though, that those two caveats could account for the 188,000 uses of the word famous on the BBC website. That's 188,000 metaphorical expectorations on Lord Reith's grave. I would have searched for famously but my eyes were filled with tears and I couldn't see the screen.
And the worst is this: when I started writing this post a couple of minutes ago I googled Lord Reith BBC famous. There were 177 results, including a reference to Lord Reith's famous dictum "Inform, educate and entertain".

This paradox of a word whose use can never be useful relates to my previous post on revealed. Someday I shall write on honestly, really, truly and actually, none of which I mind in the slightest.

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