Sunday 22 February 1998
This may be all right in the States, but it wouldn't do in Britain. Here we believe in being fully informed if possible, or else well informed, but very informed? Surely not. I suppose the theory behind this convention is that the word "very" is meant to qualify an adjective, not a verb, and you can no more say "very informed" than you can say "very shot at" or "very killed"; but it collapses as soon as you look at it. After all, one can be very depressed or frightened or upset, and these are verbs too. So what is it about informed that makes us reluctant to put a very in front of it?
The answer must be that inform has for most of its career been a pretty muscular verb, by which I mean that it has been about people doing something really purposeful: first, giving form to something, or impressing something on it, or moulding it, then doing the same to people. Teaching them, in fact. In the late Middle Ages, when the word was already being used in this way, teaching and indoctrination were the same thing. The idea that it's wrong to indoctrinate children belongs to the 20th century.
Today the moral implications of the word have quite disappeared (as they have from information) and to inform someone is merely to tell them. But the point is that an informed person is someone who has had something done to them, whereas to be depressed, say, is to be in a state of mind - you don't ask who has done the depressing, you simply think of depressed as an adjective. Of course if you think of informed in the same way, as just an adjective meaning "knowledgeable", then, and only then, you can have your very.
Life & Style blogs
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
Babies cry at night to stop mothers procreating, scientists claim
Health warning over 88,000 foreign doctors working in the NHS
Childhood bullying 'can lead to depression and unemployment in adulthood'
Baby catches deadly meningitis infection from cat
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Are you turning into your dad? The top ten signs you've embraced dad-ism revealed as survey says 38 is age men turn into their father
- 2 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 3 Overheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark
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