A comment from Vigornian prompted this, which isn’t really aimed at him at all. But the last person I witnessed using the phrase “scare quotes” was a linguistics professor, with an ability to understand and manipulate language roughly on a par with your average fanfic writer, or Colin Dexter at a push. He mistook painful, mediocre deliberation for interesting intellectual consideration. We’re talking Word of Mouth-level rajpersaudisms here. People I know who have no formal training in the subject, let alone bloody tenure, could’ve wiped the floor with this poor out-of-depth chap.
But, having squeezed the pus out of that festering rant, I have to say that it’s quite possible that Vigornian’s right in this instance. The output of your average sub-editor is generally mediocre, although given they can often turn the reportage of semi-literate copywriters into something you can actually read we shouldn’t condemn as we judge. Many of them have no idea what you can and can’t print—libel laws are tortuous and ever-changing, and there’s a myth in the industry that you only need to learn them once in your life to pass the slightly noddy NCTJs that they all wear like George crosses—so they might just be blindly covering their backs.
If I hadn’t read the article Vigornian mentions, and if there’s any benefit of doubt to be handed over, I’d say that it’s perfectly possible that the BBC have refused to prejudge what doctors might call “conscious”: as a medical term it might mean all sorts of things, and deserves to be distanced from its lay meaning. But I’ve seen Joe Longthorne perform, and I can say that there’s a slim chance that the uncertainty was in what constitutes being conscious not so much if you were a doctor, but if you were Joe Longthorne.