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Towards more picturesque speech

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Like the even ghastlier “applicable”, an adjective that carries precisely no semantic content. For, if a concept is not relevant, it goes without saying that it is not — well, relevant to the subject at hand. So one hardly needs to add a qualifier to distinguish the things you are not talking about from ones that you are.

To pull a random example from the 2002 ISDA Equity Derivatives Definitions:

Section 1.16. Issuer. “Issuer” means, in respect of Shares, the issuer of the relevant Shares.

Now this seems like a fine thing to say, until you put the contrary case: is can you imagine a court finding in favour of a counterparty claiming to labour under the misapprehension that he meant to talk about an Issuer of irrelevant Shares?

This author says “no”. Fun fact: “relevant” appears 272 times in the 2002 ISDA Equity Derivatives Definitions, and “applicable” 124 times.

The stock Young Ones reference

Which inevitably calls to mind that wonderful scene from the young ones:

In The Young Ones,[1] just before The Damned kicked off a boisterous rendition of their punk classic Nasty, Mike and Vyvyan agonised over their failure to get their new video recorder working. It is a parable for today’s uncertain times.

Mike: Maybe you shouldn’t have poured all of that washing-up liquid into it.
Vyvyan: It says here, “ensure machine is clean and free from dust”.
Mike: Yeah, but it don’t say “ensure machine is full of washing-up liquid”.
Vyvyan: Well, it doesn’t say “ensure machine isn’t full of washing-up liquid”.
Mike: Well, it wouldn’t would it? I mean, it doesn’t say “ensure you don’t chop up your video machine with an axe, put all the bits in a plastic bag and bung them down the lavatory.”
Vyvyan: Doesn’t it? Well maybe that’s where we’re going wrong.


  1. The episode was Nasty, for details freaks.