Friday, January 02, 2004

One of the least-well deployed terms in the English language is "I would have thought". I don't know whether it's specifically a Scots thing but the two best examples of its abuse have arisen there.

When I went to see Genesis on their last ever tour at the SECC in Glasgow, they took to the stage and embarked upon No Son Of Mine. Of course they did - it followed their rule to always kick off with a banker from the previous album. Yet the man behind me said to his companion "I would have though they would have opened with Dance On A Volcano". This tickles me for two reasons. Firstly, he didn't say "I thought they would have opened with Dance On A Volcano" - he said "would have thought". Why? He didn;t actually think this. So under what hypothetical circumstances would he have thought this. Why was he so keen to distance himself linguistically from this never-actually-held belief?

Another one was when I mentioned to a real world work colleage that I wrote for Doctor Who Magazine. "I wouldn't have though there was that much to write about", he helpfully responded. Why?

My response is as follows

  1. I have little interest in what you think now

  2. I have still less interest in what you used to think, but no longer do, having been corrected by reality (The strains of No Son of Mine or the continued existence of Doctor Who Magazine, for example)

  3. I have even less interest in beliefs you not only no longer hold, but in fact never have held. Such beliefs are virtually infinite in number and are of no significance whatsoever


So, if you ever feel tempted to inappropriately deploy "I would have thought" in front on me, be cautious, because you may very well find yourself saying "I would have thought you weren't going to punch me then".

Anyway, here are some railings earlier today.

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