ENGLISCH/742: Questions to Mrs. Gobbledygook (119) Marginalise (SB)


119. Marginalise

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

I come from Finland and we have lots of TV-programs and radio stations which broadcast in English. But although I think my English is reasonably good, I sometimes have difficulties to recognize the subtle differences. So, I will be very glad if you can explain the meaning of the word "margenalise" in the following sentence, which I heard in the news:

"These people were margenalised."

Thank you very much!

Nina Suontakanen (Liedenpohja, Finland)


Dear Mrs Suontakanen

In the sentence you heard in the news "marginalise" (notice: not margenalise, but "m-a-r-g-i-n-a-l-i-s-e) these people were pushed to the side, but in a figurative sense. They weren't literally pushed but they were moved from the centre of decision- making or the centre of influence. Just imagine a person complaining about this situation, he would probably say something like this:

A: I used to feel that I had some influence in the company. But I find I'm being marginalised. People don't ask my advice any more, they don't tell me what's going on...

If you are marginalised, you are made to feel as if you are not important and cannot influence decisions or events any more. You feel as though you are put in a position in which you have no power at all. You are pushed to the margin, the edge. In a book, the left-hand or the right-hand margin is the part of a page (left or right) where nothing is printed, or in general it is the empty space at the side of a written or printed page. There is a noun that describes this pushing aside, out of discussions or the increasing disrespect for certain groups of people, for example: "The marginalisation of the elderly".

By the way, this word can be spelled in two ways: either "m-a-r-g-i-n-a-l-i-s-e" or "m-a-r-g-i-n-a-l-i-z-e" (notice: not margenalise), and the spelling with "-i-z-e" at the end tends to be American English, whereas the spelling with "-i-s-e" tends to be British. But that is not a hard and fast rule.

Now, don't you allow yourself being marginalised when it comes to sending questions to me. Don't let other people get your place. And that's all from me this time...

Mrs Gobbledygook

6 August 2007