Tuesday 28 November 2023

Sunak and the "British" Parthenon Fragments

Gillian Keegan Secretary of State for Education, member of Parliament for Chichester in response to a diplomatic hiccup over the continued presence of Athens' ripped-off (literally) Parthenon Marbles in a post-imperial Bloomsbury tourist attraction gave a press interview. She, presumably deliberately, called them the "Elgin" Marbles (but misprouncing the name as /ˈɛldʒɪn/ instead of the correct /ˈɛlɡɪn/) after the bloke who sold them to the Museum - Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine (1766–1841). Having established their "Britishness", she says that they are "Actually protected under law, and under that law, they have to stay in the British Museum". This has prompted commentators to refer to a "Sunak's Law" (after the current PM). It's worth reflecting that it is not "Sunak's Law" but the British Museum Act 1963 was enacted as long ago as the end of Harold Macmillan's premiership (July 1963) and revised the British Museum Act 1902 (2 Edw. 7. c. 12) of 22 July 1902. So time for a change.


De. William Shephard said...

Paul, my dear chap, when it comes to messing up the English language, be it grammatically or otherwise, you are at the forefront. Whilst I,an ignorant wielder of an electronic device designed to uncover 'artifacts' [I am aware of the two different spellings] and coinage pertinent to our knowledge regarding past activities, seem to be able to articulate my views with the minimum of grammatical errors. So, is a grasp of the English language pertinent in resolving a dispute?? It is not, and you know it, what is pertinent here is legitimacy, and here, you lose...

Paul Barford said...

So, what you are saying is that "words don't matter"? In my opinion, they do, very much. The example discussed here is a case in point; the phrase "Parthenon Marbles" links the items it defines with a site in Greece, the name "Elgin Marbles" declares them to be a British phenomenon. It is of great significance which term is used, as that - quite obviously - underpins the entire essence of the argument and also reveals the bias of the speaker (or constitutes, as here, a tool for manipulation). The fact she mispronounces it brings home that she is clumsily attempting to use manipulative language without understanding what it is she's talking about.

Paul Barford said...

I would take issue with the idea that metal detectorists engaged in collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record "uncover artefacts [...] and coinage pertinent to our knowledge regarding past activities", what is pertinent in gaining that knowledge is analysis and documentation of their archaeological contexts (archaeology) - something that is destroyed and not done when collectors and curious/greedy/careless amateurs dig them up and pocket them willy-nilly.

Also if they are not capable of accurately ordering, organizing and articulating their observations in the records that would mitigate that information loss, then that information is unusable (and thus as good as lost). That is why literacy levels in the "metal detecting community" are important from an archaeological point of view.

I am sure it is the same in professional circles and journals of your own discipline of microbiology.

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