Fat chance of turning this tide of old cobblers

Could Lord Bragg not use a more sensitive phrase, like `a naturally heavy-boned lot of good'?

I HAVE received some interesting letters about the conduct of the war against Serbia, and I think that together they provide an absorbing cross-section of public opinion, so I am taking the liberty of reprinting a few of them today.

From General Sir Nigel

Curmudgeon MC

Sir, Am I the only one who thinks that we have already lost the war against Milosevic? The agreed purpose of the Nato offensive was to stop the atrocities against the inhabitants of Kosovo. As far as anyone can make out, the only result of our bombing was to increase the carnage practised by the Serb militia. Nor does Milosevic's grasp on power appear to be loosened by our bombardment. We keep rabbiting on about Milosevic being like Hitler, but it must be remembered that however vile Hitler was, there was never any sign of a popular uprising by the Germans against him. On the contrary.

Yours etc

From Dr Ben Salamander

Sir, As a past President of the British Rabbit Society, I must protest in the strongest possible terms against the previous letter-writer. "Rabbiting on about Milosevic", indeed! Although the rabbit is capable of communication, very few people have ever heard one make a noise. Those who know the rabbit well can testify that this noble creature, which makes a fine friend and companion as well as a tasty supper dish, is taciturn to the point of solemnity, and in these days of sound-bites and media overkill, we could well learn from the refusal of the rabbit to utter unnecessary sounds. To pretend that this reticent creature has anything to do with "rabbiting on" cannot but make my blood boil.

Yours etc

From Lord `Melvyn' Bragg

Sir, At a time when some of us are trying to bring science closer to the public, and make the ordinary man in the street aware of a few basic scientific principles, it makes me despair to hear a casual reference (as in the last letter) to such things as "making my blood boil". Does the writer not know that were his blood to reach anything like boiling point, he would be dead? I know that it is only a figure of speech, but if we only made our figures of speech a little more fact-based, the world would be a better place. A fat lot of good it is for me and my mates to hold little scientific seminars on Radio 4 if nobody is going to take them seriously.

Yours etc

From Mrs Nora Duckett

Sir, It makes me want to scream out loud when I hear otherwise respected people use phrases like "a fat lot of good". Does Lord "Melvyn" Bragg have any idea how hurtful this is to those of us who, through no fault of our own, are grotesquely obese? Could he not use a more sensitive phrase, like "a well-built lot of good" or "a naturally heavy-boned lot of good"? Radio 4 used to be a Mecca for common sense. No longer, I fear.

Yours etc

From Mr Shafeeq Obady

Sir, Here we go again! Do any non-Muslims ever realise how offensive it is to hear the name of the holy city being used lightly? "Mecca for common sense", indeed! Do we go around saying "a Canterbury for common sense"? Or even "a Jerusalem for common sense"? I think not. At least we have got rid of the once-common Mecca Ballroom, but I think that is because ballrooms have gone out of fashion, not because people are more sensitive. Frankly, you can take it from a Muslim that the idea that people are getting any more sensitive is a load of cobblers.

Yours etc

From Mrs Wilma Norrington

Sir, My late husband, who was a master shoe-maker and expert shoe-mender, would have been horrified at the unthinking use by the previous writer of the word "cobblers" to signify "rubbish". Every profession, he used to say, has its own dignity, and for that reason he would never have referred to Milosevic as, for instance, "the butcher of Belgrade". And nor will I.

Yours etc

From Mrs Dora Williams

Sir, Why on earth do people always refer to King Canute's inability to stop the tide coming in as if he had somehow failed? The whole point is that he knew he couldn't stop the tide. I know that none of your correspondents has made this error or even referred to Canute, but I just wanted to get in on things somehow. Thanks!

Yours etc

Thanks for all your letters - I only wish I had space for more.

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