On the 28th January, 1953 a nineteen year old Derek William Bentley was hanged in England for uttering five simple words. Those words were Let him have it, Chris.
It began when Bentley and his mate, Christopher Craig, attempted to rob a warehouse of confectionery manufacturers. Living opposite, a girl who witnessed the break-in alerted her father who in turn contacted the police. Christopher Craig, who carried a gun, confronted the police. It was as the police tried to negotiate with the pair, attempting to get Craig to hand over his weapon, that Bentley pleaded with his mate. A policeman was shot and wounded and Bentley was hanged for attempted murder. The younger Craig was not eligible for the death penalty and spent ten years in jail whereupon his release led an exemplary life.
The debate raged as to the meaning of those five words. What was your understanding upon first reading the phrase? After Bentley’s death an inquiry exonerated him but to this day the connotation of those words is still open to interpretation.
Language is a powerful tool. It empowers us to advocate and negotiate and it is the one tool that if taken from us removes our functionality and ability to navigate efficiently through life’s journey. As such it behoves each of us to build up an arsenal of these tools for our defence and offense as we journey through life.
This is why English is tested inadvertently in every subject from essays in humanities, to written reports in science and even through to problem solving in maths. The ability to read, interpret and write is invaluable.
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