Macmillan: ‘Events, dear boy. Events’... Cameron: ‘Shit happens’
This is true; it does.
Perhaps we should not be so shocked, for although the OED indicates the term is coarse sl, it is clearly one of those words which is passing through a transitional phase towards common acceptability; its coarseness and vulgarity are being reassessed and the vernacular is expanding to embrace a meaning beyond the expulsion of faeces from the body.
‘Shit happens’: difficult or unpleasant things occur.
It is simply the 21st-century equivalent of ‘Events, dear boy. Events’.
This was the response given by another Old Etonian, Harold Macmillan, when he was asked by a journalist what can most easily steer a government off course. ‘Events, dear boy. Events’ has entered the political lexicon as a circumlocution for the unpredictability of politics.
Today’s synonym is ‘Shit happens’.
Perhaps it shows a certain lowering of the tone, decline in culture, finesse, manners.
Or perhaps not.
Words only offend if one’s speech is not crafted to suit one’s audience: a vulgar word or phrase is not so vulgar amongst the vulgar. The Prime Minister was addressing other MPs at a Spectator party: doubtless far worse things have been said at such gatherings by far more elevated personages than the Prime Minister, notwithstanding that the ceremony will probably be broadcast on national television at some point.
And then the shit will hit the fan.
And while the Prime Minister will doubtless not give a shit, his aides and spokesmen may feel as though they are up a certain creak without a paddle.
But this is trivial: we easily forget that the Authorised Version of the Bible talks of ‘piss’ (2Kng 18:27; Isa 36:12; 1Sam 25:22, etc’, etc.). While Scripture talks of Saul going in ‘to cover his feet’ (1Sam 24:3), David Cameron would say ‘to take a dump’.
His Grace could dwell further on this, but he wants to come to something a little more significant.
In yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour MP Brian Donohoe asked if David Cameron would visit Ayrshire to witness the highest unemployment in Scotland. And he used an interesting phrase:
If Mohammed will not come to Ayrshire, is it possible, given the reports in the national press about Irvine, the largest town in my constituency, having the highest unemployment in Scotland, that he would meet a small delegation to discuss the question of unemployment?This was, of course, an allusion to Frances Bacon’s Essays of 1625, in which he wrote:
Mahomet cald the Hill to come to him. And when the Hill stood still, he was neuer a whit abashed, but said; If the Hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet wil go to the hil.Within a few years of publication 'mountain' had replaced ‘hill', and by 1643 the saying had become:
If the mountaine will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will goe to the mountaine.As ever, there are various spellings of the name of the founder of Islam - Muhammad, Mahomet, Mohammed, Muhammed etc.
But it was a curious irreverence (coming from a Labour MP) in today’s hyper-sensitivity surrounding all things Islamic.
Which brings His Grace to a delicious irony.
He reported some months ago on the fact that the nation was surreptitiously being force-fed halal meat through supermarkets, cafés, fast-food outlets and hospitals. And he had reported some years before this that schoolchildren were being fed halal meat without parental knowledge or consent.
Well, it transpires that halal meat has been secretly served in House of Commons restaurants for quite some time.
Mohammed may not have gone to the mountain, or even to Ayrshire. But he has certainly visited the pantry of the Parliamentary catering service.
They feign innocence, protesting that it is not known how they could have ‘unknowingly received’ poultry slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law.
Try: 'lack of accurate labelling'.
It is very simple.
Of course, this revelation is of the utmost concern to Sikh MPs, who are forbidden to eat meat 'killed in the Muslim way'. And also to those Christians who might believe the meat to have been 'offered to idols' (1Cor 10:14-32).
Conservative MP Greg Knight said: “Suppliers seem to be going for the option of making everyone eat halal so they don’t inadvertently offend a Muslim. I don’t think that’s the way forward; the way forward is proper labelling. I prefer to eat meat where the animal has been killed humanely and without suffering.”
Philip Hollobone MP added: “I am angry because I don’t think it is that difficult a problem to solve. It just needs the political will to do it. We’re waiting for Europe to do something rather than taking the initiative ourselves or maybe the Government is frightened about upsetting the ethnic minorities.”
Ah, waiting for ‘Europe’.
Perhaps the mountain will come to Mohammed first.
If it doesn’t, doubtless more shit will happen.