CONDITIONAL PERFECT

There’s a bit of a theme emerging. It’s post Rio, fewer bodies than usual squashed into the city, and a there’s a general temperature-related slow down.

If three teeny data points suggest a theme, then here’s a theme.

‘Perfect’ is beginning to feel too shiny and hard; we’re falling out of love with the idea.

  • First data point.

Imagine a tube journey of average hideousness, everyone magnificently employing the usual coping strategies, much fantasising of journey’s end. Three young men swagger into the central standing area, and begin to arrange themselves and their luggage. This involves space, elbows, combs, backpack swinging, to-be-overheard voices, and a pretty unambiguous sense of entitlement. The tripping up of two small children, the unaware hitting the head of another passenger with a backpack, and the (also unaware) stepping back onto another passenger’s foot is predictable. But what was not predictable was the reaction from two other young men as the heroes left the carriage. One turned to the other with just two words. ‘Over Achievers’.

  • Second data point.

Stuart Heritage wrote a piece in the Guardian this week where he expressed his changing views about certain previously reviled politicians. What brought about this change of heart? Simply, any signs of failure and misfortune. Instantly the most unlikely candidates – Michael Gove for instance – became objects of affection and renewed, compassionate interest. So, so far from perfect.

Here’s what the Guardian has to say about it.

  • Third data point.

The Rio Olympics have apparently been a wonderful success for GB. Loads more medals than other countries with loads of medals I think. Good-oh. So why do fond reflections about the single gold won by Fiji in the Rugby 7s (and involving a GB defeat) keep appearing?

Here’s an example from the advertising community, not known for any antipathy towards success, achievement or perfection and all that it brings. It’s clear that the single minded investment in GB performance and ‘winning’ has somehow removed the gilt from the gingerbread. While the (more amateur?) sport-revelling and enjoying performance of a less driven team has given more pleasure.

Here’s what Campaign has to say about it.

It is a theme, isn’t it?

A conditional perfect tense is used when something ‘would have happened’ but was stopped by something else.

Sounds much more like real life than, you know, perfect.

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