March 31, 2016 § Leave a comment

Are you able to read?

This question might have been asked of a child when I was young. However, since perhaps the millennium phrases such as “I can swim.”; “I can play football.”; “I can read and write.” seem to have fallen out of use.

We talk mainly of “skills”. We improve our reading skills. In a charity shop, over the public address system (or perhaps intercom), volunteers are enticed by the suggestion that they will improve their skills. The skills include meeting and talking to people.

For me the word “skill” still suggests an acquirement that is above and beyond the average. Most of us read. But not many of us play a piano to Wigmore Hall standards. How do we now describe the accomplished playing of a concert pianist?

At an assembly a few weeks ago, I listened to children speak of their recently improved skills.  One of the children talked about her “patience skills”. Other skills were mentioned too: “endurance skills”.

Is this not a most unnatural way of speaking? Why should the language school children use smack so much of the business world?  Do we now talk of our “waiting-in-a-queue-skills” or our “buying bread skills”?


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