The following blog is a bit of a grumble that has nothing to do with how old I am. Some who know me would call me a pedant; others who know me would ask me to explain what a pedant is. Others who know me, and whom I may be more favourably disposed towards would call me precise. Now before the ueber pedantic amongst you start picking holes in my claim to precision, I would like to point out that this is not precision that comes with learning, it is an inclination that comes with character – if you have one.

Without further ado:

I have noticed lately how presenters and journalists on radio and television ask people questions that they could not possibly know the answers to. This evening’s edition of the much maligned and then also highly regarded SABC 3 lifestyle programme, ‘Top Billing’ had one of these questions. Joanne Strauss was at some event – unfortunately I was flicking through the four channels available to me and not really watching the show – and she brandished the microphone at someone she obviously thought was a young person. Joanne asked this young person, “As a child, how does it feel to be at this event?” Or something like that.

The bit I find impossible would be the ” … as a child … ” bit. If you’re a child would you have thought about attending the event as a child? Would you have, en route, thought about how it may be to attend the event as an adult and compared the experience to that of a child? Would you have, as soon as you had received the invitation to the event, thought about attending the event as a child versus attending the event as an infant or as a zebra? The use of as implies a comparison.

As a deeply philosophical child and even as a deeply philosophical adult, would you be likely to approach an event considering your experience from your state of being and how that would be different to anyone else’s? And more importantly, would you know how your experience would be different from anyone or anything else’s? I don’t think you could honestly claim to know someone else’s experience. This means that you would not be able to answer Joanne Strauss’s question because her question (by using “as”) implies that you know of another experience, other than the one she is asking you to talk about.

If I were the child, I might answer, “Well, when I was a spider I found that I was always scurrying to avoid being trod on. But as a child, it is all so much easier. I can talk to people and no-one is trying to step on me.”

‘Top Billing’ and its presenters are not the only guilty ones. Keep your ears pricked and I promise you, you will hear it too.