Thursday, January 25, 2007

Saved by Eleanor Burnham

The story with the longest reach in the Assembly this week flowed from the elegant lips of Eleanor Burnham. The Assembly decision to make prescriptions free came in a very poor second. Everyone's been talking about Eleanor. I think I am the only blogger to post on free prescriptions - but the blogosphere has been humming with Eleanor-speak.

She asked the Minister "Why not invest in a Maglev train that the Japs use to whizz around the countryside at 320mph, rather than piddling around at 60mph as we do". This has stimulated a furore. Not because the fast train that the Japanese whizz around is not a Maglev. Not even because of the use of the word 'piddling' as a Parliamentary term. But because she referred to the Japanese as 'Japs'. Labour AM, Carl Sergeant objected, the Llywydd frowned and Eleanor withdrew the word and apologised.

I feel a bit like one of those Secord World War soldiers who emerges from the Borneo jungle after 40 years to find that the world had changed. I don't think I have used the term 'japs' in public myself - but I could have done. I didn't know the word is derogatory. The meaning of words do change over time, and it is clear this is one word where the meaning has changed. Eleanor has saved me from the possibility of personal embarrassment on this issue. I could be behind the times because I never watch war films. Anyway.

I don't want to offend anyone - so it must always be 'the Swedish', 'the Finnish', 'the Turkish', 'the Japanese' and 'the British'. Lucky there isn't a Magalev in Pakistan.

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