Back a few decades Bernard Levin pointed out the important point of this story about the 50 p coin, Brexit and the Oxford comma. As with all good logical points the example was different, the underlying the same.
There had been a rumpus – even, a Rumpus – over an advertisement claiming that one or other of the manufacturers had the crispiest crisps. Or perhaps crunchiest, memory fades at this distance. Could have been Golden Wonder, could have been one of the other majors, no matter.
This was then investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority and they ruled on whether this claim was true or not. The ASA’s point being that the claim could only be made if it were true. Therefore it was necessary to rule on whether it was true before deciding whether the advertisement could be allowed to continue running.
Levin’s point being that what a glory to live in such a society. No, not one in which speech is restricted only to the truth, even in advertising, nor one in which prodnoses determine what may be said or claimed upon TV. Rather, a society that devotes resources to this has solved all the big problems. Therefore, resources devoted to this means a glorious society which has solved all the big problems.
It’s possible to see a hole or two in that logic. A society twisting itself into knots over he in hte past or present tense when xe is claimed, while still having tens of thousands of child rapes from ethnically based grooming gangs cannot be said to have solved every problem, not even every large problem. But it is also true that we are a fabulously wealthy society that has solved near all of the big problems that have afflicted humanity over the eons.
Of which this is another proof:
For a time, it seemed nothing could divide the nation more sharply than Brexit.
Today, even that most seismic of issues faced being dwarfed by a new controversy featuring a coin, a quotation, and a comma.
A new 50p coin commemorating Brexit caused a very British conundrum, as fans and critics vied over the absence of the Oxford comma from its phrase “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”.
Sir Philip Pullman, the award-winning author, led the charge, calling for all literate people to boycott the coins. Some claimed the omission of a second comma was “killing” them, while others declared Pullman plainly wrong.
That we worry about such shows that we’ve pretty much solved the food, shelter, clothing, war, poverty problems, no?