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to be fair

September 11, 2011

Has anyone else noticed that more and more people are saying ‘to be fair’ where in the past they’d have said ‘to be honest’? I first noticed it in Jah Wobble’s autobiography, Memoirs of a Geezer, and since then I’ve heard it a lot. It seems to be a particular favourite with the youth. But it doesn’t actually mean, ‘I’m making an attempt to be fair here’ (giving someone the benefit of the doubt; allowing them a redeeming quality). It means something much more like ‘I’m speaking my mind’. This results in odd-sounding sentences – ‘To be fair, he’s a complete moron’ etc. If this new usage spreads, I wonder what expression will emerge to take care of the old meaning of ‘to be fair’?

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