A few days ago, Tim (the other Tim) was having a bit of a go at the 2007 Bad Sex in Fiction Award, noting that it was "ironic that the organisers of an ironic writing award can't seem to recognise ironic writing."
Well, yep. This sent me googling to find that other bad writing award site, the "Foot in Mouth" award by the Plain English Campaign. In previous years, they have presented awards to various daffy film stars, and Donald Rumsfeld, for his remarkably stupid "Known Unknowns" speech. Fair enough, then - but I was more than a bit baffled by their selection of this quote from Boris Johnson, on a news quiz program on the BBC:
I could not fail to disagree with you less.
That's bad, but is it really remarkably bad? It sounds like a Boris attempted a witticism but it went wrong: repeating yourself for rhetorical effect often works, but it's just a pity that in this case, the repetition became a triple (or is it quadruple?) negative.
"I could not fail to disagree with you less." The more I think about that statement, it really is something that I could not succeed to disagree with more. Or perhaps it is something that I
could not fail to disagree with more? It's certainly something that I could never be robustly and wholeheartedly non-supportive of, and I must say that I can not fail to sympathise with the argument less, although some of my ideological opponents may take issue with me there.
It barely even matters what Johnson is agreeing (or, to put it more accurately, failing to disagree less) with. As a matter of fact, in these times when there is so much division between left and right, I could only wish that people would fail to disagree with one another in a friendly fashion more often. At the very least, they could agree to disagree with one another less, or perhaps even agree more to not fail to disagree less (whichever comes first).
Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it is a failure to not fail to disagree with one another less that is the principle failure of modern times. In other words, it is not so much a failure to communicate as an unfailure to not communicate less with one another.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real failure.
PS - Please feel free to disagree with me less in comments. Or at least fail to do so.
Tim, your links stink, you fink!
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