Letters: In Brief

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The Independent Culture
Sir: So Alex Gray thinks the Bramleys have set their children a poor example (letter, 21 January). Presumably, having given the matter due consideration, he has decided that if the local social services department decided that he was an inadequate parent he would submit to the "unpleasant obligation" of surrendering his children to them.

I can only hope that his unfortunate children (if any) will not have learnt that love, family and the demands of conscience must take second place to a blind obedience to the decisions of those in authority.

ALAN COOK

Bishopstone, Wiltshire

Sir: Len Salem (letter, 20 January) need not take offence at the use of "dumb" in the sense of stupid. Far from being "an insult to those deprived of speech", dumb meaning stupid was taken into (American) English from the Yiddish/German word dumm, which has only this meaning.

The word for dumb (mute) in these two languages is s(ch)tumm, which has also found its way into English, albeit in a slightly amended sense.

CHARLES KENNAUGH

Greasby, Merseyside

Sir: Your correspondent J B Gresham (letter, 22 January) asks why "perjury" by President Clinton is regarded as a peccadillo by some, but not the perjury by Jonathan Aitken. The answer is obvious, and accounts for the inverted commas in my first use of the word above.

Many in this country are baffled as to how Clinton's evasive statements came to be regarded as "perjury". In Mr Aitken's case, he ostentatiously took it upon himself to launch a libel action, explicitly accusing investigative journalists of lying, and declaring his intention of bringing them to book.

J M SMITH

West Kirby, Merseyside

Sir: As a taxpayer who never had the opportunity of attending Oxford, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, I can only hope that St Hilda's and Somerville Colleges teach these pampered products of the Welfare State their first lesson in economics - that services have to be paid for ("Oxford suspends protest students", 22 January). There are plenty of students at home and abroad who would willingly take their places.

JANE SUTCLIFFE

Newport, Gwent

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