Words : Scandal
Sunday 15 December 1996
The Independent was the first to break that story of large-scale child abuse in Merseyside children's homes - "3,000 in new abuse scandal" said its banner headline, echoing earlier ones ("New child abuse scandal"; "300 victims in secret child sex scandal"). is a word you might have expected in popular papers, sometimes called scandal sheets. But the pops disseminate scandals while leaving the word itself to be displayed in 72-point type in the heavies. If this sounds paradoxical, it isn't really. It's just that scandal is an ogre with two heads. One tells the truth, the other could be lying.
The truthful head spoke through Francis Bacon (the essayist, not the artist) when he wrote that "heresies and schisms are ... the greatest scandals", meaning that, being true, they brought the Church into disrepute. The lying head spoke through Polonius when for devious reasons he instructed one of his servants to "put scandals" on his son Laertes; and through Tennyson when, inviting his chum Frederick Denison Maurice down to Farringford, he wrote: "You'll have no scandal when you dine, but honest talk and wholesome wine" - none of that donnish tittle-tattle F D got in London. (The tittle- tattle was probably more fun than what we know of Tennyson's conversation, but never mind.)
Bacon was sticking to the older meaning. came originally from the Greek for a stumbling block, and was used of something that made people's faith falter, or it could mean a lapse of morals. The newer meaning was already going strong when he wrote that essay; Shakespeare had used it in both senses. One can see how the word got its two heads, though. A rumour put about by scandalmongers could be just as upsetting to the faithful as a real scandal.
There was no trouble about which meaning to take. It's a question of whether an article - a scandal, the scandal - is involved. Or an adjective. Anyone who talks about "a disgraceful scandal" is instantly believed and everyone is appalled. , no attachments, is a mere smell, no substance.
Life & Style blogs
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election
- 1 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 2 How to turn off/stop 'seen by' on Facebook: Disable it to make your chats seem less passive aggressive
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 5 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...
Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...
£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...