Those with sufficient time on their hands to sit through Tony Blair’s evidence to the Iraq Enquiry may have missed his “flannel moment”: this came when the former Prime Minister was discussing the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington DC. Blair told the Enquiry that the attacks changed the “calculus of risk”.
And what kind of “calculus” might that be? Are we talking differentiation or integration? What’s the point of the wording? Is he talking of maximising public support while minimising opposition? Or is the objective of the “calculus” to maximise the military impact while minimising the time involved? I doubt that Blair knows one end of calculus from the other, and the conclusion is therefore that this is just more verbage deployed for effect.
It happens all too often nowadays – and it’s not good enough. English is a rich enough language for public figures to convey their intended meaning (both explicit and implicit) without misuse. Those who occupy – or have occupied – the highest elective office should be particularly careful not to appropriate forms of words merely because they sound cool.
Even those who tell that they’re just, well, y’know, regular kinds of guys.