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Newsletter October 26 - 2004FREE email English course
Dear Friend,

It's surprising what a difference a single letter makes to a word. Take the letter «s» from «selection» and you get «election». The question is whether the two words are related and what the meanings are. Well, they both have within them the idea of choosing or choice.

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With «selection» you have a wide variety of things or people to choose from but with «election» you are narrowing your choice and picking one in particular.

Now let's get down to details. Supposing you want to buy a lawnmower to cut your grass and you are one of those people who likes to examine all the possibilities. In that case you would go to a «specialist» gardening shop where they would have a large number of different types of lawnmower or in other words they would have a wide «selection» of them in the store. You could buy a CD which would not have just one song or piece of music but a collection of different songs say from opera and it would contain a «selection» of popular operatic songs, which someone has chosen for you. You are looking for a job in Information Technology or IT. In that case you would buy a magazine «specialising» in that profession in order to find the best «selection» of jobs available. But when we come to «election», that's «an entirely different kettle of fish» as we say — a completely different situation.

An election is a process whereby people vote for someone to represent them and that person is called a «candidate». Elections are very much «in the air» — something happening now - at the moment. In the UK we tend to have a so-called «General Election» every 4 or 5 years and there will be a new one coming up within the next year. The trouble with politicians is that they can't stop reminding the public- the «voters» — how good they are and that they should vote for them at the next election. This way of behaving is not usually acceptable especially if they don't stop talking about how people should vote and the word we use for this kind of activity is called «electioneering». When a «Member of Parliament» as we call them in Britain, resigns, dies or in exceptional cases is removed from the job, it is obviously necessary to find a new member to «fill the vacant seat» — to replace them. This process is called a «by-election».

In the General Election we have the chance to choose all the members of parliament in the different areas or «constituencies« in which we live. In many countries there are various methods of choosing a candidate to vote for but here in the UK the system is popularly called «first past the post» — a comparison with a horse race where the one in front is the winner. In the election the candidate who has the most votes is the one who is elected to parliament and however many votes the other candidates have doesn't matter. So you can end up with the «anomaly» — unusual situation — where the political party that has the most «winners» and goes on to form the next government might not have as many votes in total across the country as another political party that didn't get as many «winners».

So we come back again to the question of choice with which we are presented every day of our lives. It is a subject that has been written and spoken of through the ages. Shakespeare's Hamlet was disturbed by it in the speech beginning: «To be or not to be: that is the question». In Jane Austen's famous novel «Pride and Prejudice» a father is advising his eldest daughter not to marry a certain Mr Collins although he knows that his wife (her mother) is all in favour: «From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents — Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr Collins and I will never see you again if you do». But again the easiest choice to be made is where you don't actually have one at all if you follow me as we can see from the American car manufacturer, Henry Ford who is alleged to have said about his Model T Ford in 1909: «Any customer can have a car painted any colour he wants so long as it is black.»

Alan Townend

Dear Friend,
If you have any questions or comments regarding this essay, please post your answers on the forum here: Make your mind up.

Many thanks.

Here comes 2004...Head expressions for you
Womens' DayA spring in your step
Only three lettersNot really
Have a break!The name of the game
Good bye summerYour choice
In short 
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