BRAINFOOD: Words-worth

Ownership - If possession is nine-tenths of the law, 'ownership' must be ten-tenths.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

If possession is nine-tenths of the law, 'ownership' must be ten-tenths.

But who feels like the 'owner' of anything? The socks you stand up in, perhaps; your loose change; your soul, unless you've been dabbling with forces darker even than the Inland Revenue. But the mortgaged ranch-style home, the Lexus, Office XP?

Ambiguity about physical 'ownership' has knocked out the word's stuffing, delivering it to those who prefer their language pliant. Take, for instance, the squeaky-clean spymaster in the Hutton Inquiry, who claimed 'ownership' of a dossier he had not written, edited, photocopied or stapled together.

Nor, presumably, was he going to take it home in a paper bag. In the same way, business people now claim 'ownership' of ideas, projects, staff and customers. They mean 'responsibility' for them, of course: but in frightened times, few will put up their hand for that.

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