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Ecclestone's other battle - Shakespeare and Chaucer


Some years ago, some bright spark applied for a patent for the wheelbarrow. Some unsung genius had invented it many years ago and had neglected to patent his idea. The application was refused thus setting a precedent should anyone else try to patent an object for which none exists, the teaspoon, for example.

The first race to use the title 'Grand Prix' was a horse race for three-year-olds first run at Longchamps in 1863 and it was the Grand Prix de Paris. The first time that the appellation was used for a motor race was in 1906 for the Grand Prix de l'AFC, more commonly known as the French Grand Prix.

Some early races in America were called 'Grand Prize'.

I cannot see how Bernie, or anyone else, can trademark 'Grand Prix, which is a horse racing term. In the early days of our sport, horse racing was the closest model so we still have pole position, the paddock, stewards and a clerk of the course. In some early races at Brooklands, drivers wore silk colours, as jockeys do, but silk rips at high speed.

It is true that pole position is now more closely associated with motor racing, but it originally meant the horse running in front close to the rails. OED gives the first citation in print as the New York Times, 3rd September, 1888, but the term must have been in common parlance before then or it would not have been understood.

Here is a strange anomaly, OED does not have an entry for 'Formula One'.

We have all kinds of trademark issues, I believe Damon Hill registered his eyebrows. Ferrari has never been able to register the prancing horse because it is an heraldic device and appears on the coat of arms of Stuttgart, which is Porsche's badge. Ferrari's unique take is the horse on a shield with the letters S & F.

The first four-wheel-drive Ferrari is named the FF, but that was the name Jensen used in 1967 for the first modern 4WD production car. Jensen Motors still exists, maybe that should have words. Ford did when Ferrari wanted to call an F1, the F150, the name of a Detroit pick-up truck.

The small British kit car maker, Dutton, made a model called 'Sierra'. Then Ford used the name for its replacement for the Cortina. It went to court, the details have not been made public but Tim Dutton has always been relaxed about the outcome.

Formula One is the name of an economy hotel chain which I have used. It is also the name of an American powdered nutrition supplement.

Then we have lawyers issuing instructions on the way words can be used and it is the usual lawyer pedantic guff. I remember being told at school that you cannot use a double negative because two negatives make a positive. That is true in maths, not in English; Chaucer, correctly called the Father of the English Language, used the double negative as emphasis.

We are told that a split infinitive is ungrammatical and that is plain wrong; it offends no rule of grammar, only of rhetoric. The crew of the Starship Enterprise may boldly go, the phrase is so much better than to go boldly.

We have just celebrated Shakespeare's birthday and there was a man who was flexible with language, he would happily turn a noun into a verb when it suited him. In The Taming Of The Shrew, Petruchio declares his intention of finding a rich wife and says: 'I come to wive it wealthily in Padua.' Chaucer also uses 'wive' in the same way.

In one corner we have Bernie Ecclestone. In the other we have Shakespeare and Chaucer and more than a thousand years of the English language. Who is likely to be right?



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1. Posted by Chris Balfe (editor), 04/05/2014 20:59


Mike Lawrence sent me the following in response to your post:

Alfred is usually credited with unifying most of England and part of his policy was to renovate walled Roman cities, most of which can be identified by 'chester' or 'cester' in their names. His grandson, Aethestan became the first king of the whole country in 927.

Canute (died 1035) who was Danish was king of Denmark, England and Norway. Harold finally defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Stamford Bridge (Yorkshire) in 1066 and so resounding was his victory that they agreed to return home and concentrate on bacon and self-assembly furniture, the latter being a sort of revenge.

That same year there was the Norman Conquest and your Normans may have spoken a form of French, but they were not snail munchers, they were Norsemen. Norman French became the official language but Anglo-Saxon was developing. Anglo-Saxon gave us pig and cow, Norman French gave us pork and beef since they ate the meat the serfs raised.

By the 14th Century English had emerged and it had its first major voice in Chaucer who, with a little prompting, can be read without too much difficulty. English retained its Teutonic Anglo-Saxon structure while borrowing from just about any source: anorak and kayak are from Eskimo. Incidentally, every Inuit is an Eskimo, but not every Eskimo is an Inuit, despite what some people would have you believe. The Inuit are the largest tribe, but not the only one.

I can get the gist of an Italian newspaper simply because of words from Latin both languages have. 'Ferrari' is basically 'Smith', think of ferrous. The Ferrari Dino (from Alfredino) is the Alf Smith, though it loses something in the translation. Italian and English abbreviate names in different ways.

As for various royalty, like Canute, the last English king of England was Richard III. Prince Phillip is German, though from the Greek royal family, he is a Battenberg. There were many German principalities and half were Protestant."

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2. Posted by Paul C, 03/05/2014 20:25

"Good article Mike. Bernie has finally gone too far. Bashing the Bard and English is way out of bounds."

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3. Posted by Dreadnaught, 02/05/2014 22:07

"Finally, finally there seems to be a momentum against this odious little man whose time was long since passed.
This is about the strongest criticism I have seen in print. Many years ago I dined with friends in France and met a well known journalist who asked if I had read his critique in the weeks issue of a well known publication. I hadn't but did so on my return to UK. I thought it very mild but said journalist seemed to disappear for a number of years, certainly from that publication. Happily he is now back on the scene. I have often wondered what pressure was brought to bear.
All this nonsense does absolutely nothing for F1 and it must be time for the FIA to get matters back under control. F1 is still their property even if the promotion was sold for a mess of pottage."

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4. Posted by Switcher99, 02/05/2014 16:17

"It's more than just Bernie up to this! I recently received close to 30 pages of legalese telling me that I could not use the word 'Silverstone' on a T-shirt. I thought this was a place name on a map but apparently the owners of the circuit own the rights to the name and are the only people allowed to use it for anything remotely related to motor sport.

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5. Posted by Rick in Oz, 02/05/2014 3:23

"Has somebody sent a copy to Bernie?"

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6. Posted by Glen73, 01/05/2014 19:45

"A wonderful essay, but I have a few questions. Did King Alfred really unify England? Was not a large part of Northern England occupied by the Danes when he died? Next, did Alfred and his contemporaries really speak anything that can be called "English"? I doubt that anyone alive today other than a few hoary professors and possibly Madonna could understand a conversation if they hopped out of a time machine in the 9th century. I believe they spoke Saxon with Celtic and Norman and even Roman influences, but I could be wrong. I do think that King Alfred would do a better job of directing F1 than Bernie. Let's put Bernie in a swamp and revive Alfred. "

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7. Posted by GoodPublicity, 01/05/2014 1:16 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 01/05/2014 8:30)

"This comment was removed by an administrator as it was judged to have broken the site's posting rules and etiquette."

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8. Posted by Redphyve, 30/04/2014 15:09

"As always, Professor Mike has taken me down an interesting and different route to reach a conclusion. The man is genius.

And he is a Gooner. Just perfect.

And very off-topic, I would LOVE to be a fly on the wall when the Editor and Professor Mike talk football. That would be a podcast of EPIC proportions.

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