I think we have another language problem on our hands here everyone. I think we’ve gone and broken the word “argument”.
I think it’s happened because we’ve all decided that “debate” is too pompous. It might well be too pompous, as it goes, it sounds a bit high falutin’, doesn’t it? Would you like to enter our debate? Will we be using the Chatham House Rule?
But what’s the word for what you do with your friends, or your partner, when one of you kind of takes up one position and the other takes the opposite one? Not in a forced debatey kind of way, but in a natural conversational kind of way. Debate is probably the word really. But it isn’t what people say nowadays, oh no…
“So Susan, are you going to lay that patio?”
“Well, funnily enough, Paul and I were having an argument… well… discussion about it last night.”
That’s right, the new word for this situation is, “argument… well… discussion”.
“Discussion” isn’t the word by itself because it implies that you might well agree about it, “we were discussing it and we both think we should go for it.”
And “argument” sounds too strong. It sounds like you might have been really cross about what you were debating. “Argument” has a frisson of emotion to it. And goodness gracious me, it would certainly never do to entertain the possibility that you have an emotional depth thicker than a sheet of paper.
But isn’t there already a word for the times when an argument goes a bit too far? Yes, it’s “row”. “Row” sits nicely between “argument” and “fight”.
So it would seem we are too squeamish to use “argument” now. We don’t want to admit that we are passionate about our point of view. When we say “argument”, we think other people think we’re saying “row”, but being nice.
And I know why – it is nice and polite. I know I’d say, “bit of a debate” probably to avoid saying “argument”. But my characters, who are hopefully more realistic than I am, will probably say, “argument… well… discussion”.
What would you say?