The ridiculous Sam Uffindell media beat-up over the MP’s youthful indiscretions saw Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson say the issue date of the report was “pretty” disrespectful and “pretty cynical timing.” That got me thinking about this speech oddity of saying “pretty” for “very.” We all do it and believe it or not, have for centuries. For example, recently re-reading the Diaries of Samuel Pepys written 400 years ago, I noticed Pepys used it frequently as an ‘adjective.’ The OED acknowledges “pretty” being used as an adjective going back 2,000 years.
This oddity points up the extraordinary range of English, now universally accepted as the global language.
The 1st edition of the Oxford English dictionary (Cambridge university turned down the proposition), was published in 1879. The second comprising 20 volumes appeared in 1989 and listed over 600,000 entries.
The 3rd edition was due out in 2005 but with 70 full-time staff on the job, it’s still only half complete. So many words have multiple meanings, many recently acquired, such as with “digital” while new words are constantly arising.
All of this points up the mindless absurdity in Coneland of trying to resurrect a dead language, specifically maori, and inflicting it on the public. Maori’s claimed 10,000 words compare poorly with English’s 600,000.
Finally, if you’re wondering why I re-read Pepys, trust me, it’s full of delights, such as this time-less observation.
“Getting one’s mistress in child and thus marrying her, is like shitting in your top hat then putting it on your head.”