What’s Passed is Past by Brenda Maddox

Brenda Maddox

What’s Passed is Past

 

‘’Twas the night before Christmas’. ‘In the beginning was the Word.’ What's wrong with the simple past tense? While I am tolerant of most of the irritants that drive Radio 4 listeners mad (‘secketary’, ‘the media is’), I explode every time I hear the present tense used for things past. Whenever I catch phrases like ‘Churchill has to decide...’, I scream: ‘He doesn't have to decide anything! He's dead!’

What is called the ‘historic present’ is now in vogue on television and radio. The intention, I suppose, is to bring the past alive, to present unfolding events as they seemed at the time, with options still open, the future unknown. But to me it is a misleading verbal trick

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