Sometimes, in rare moments of total complacency and self-satisfaction, I allow myself to consider my level of English to be - well, OK. Not a mother tongue level, but I could get by in a blog post or in an e-mail to Amazon customer service. This kind of OK.
Then I stumble on an article like This isn't 'feminism'. It's Islamophobia by Ms Penny, who is "a journalist and feminist activist from London" and also "a contributing editor at the New Statesman, and the author of Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism". And all my previously described conceit about my English is destroyed in a jiffy. And I don't mean my reading comprehension problems with sentences like "I am infuriated by white men stirring up anti-Muslim prejudice to derail debate on western sexism". After a while this sentence settles down in your stomach and even grows on you as time goes by.
No, it appears that my troubles start on more basic elements of the language. Take this passage, for example:
This month Student Rights, a pressure group not run by students, released a report vastly exaggerating a suggestion by Universities UK that male and female students might be asked to sit separately in some lectures led by Islamic guest speakers.This one sent my poor mind reeling. First of all, was there a "suggestion" or wasn't? All right, there was, and it wasn't a suggestion but a guidance, as one could learn easily. So, possibly, only some of the female students should be asked to sit separately (for instance ones whose eye color doesn't match the university standards or shoes are somewhat kitschy)? Nope, it appears that all ladies should be asked to sit separately, according to same guidance.
So where is the element of exaggeration, mentioned by Ms Penny, hiding? I was transported to a moment many years back when the sentence "The report of my death was an exaggeration" was understood by me to be a joke.
Is it possible that Laurie Penny was aiming to make a joke?
Dunno, you tell me. Meanwhile I will remain confused. Speaking of which... yeah.