Reverse course

To “reverse course” means a person or organization changes their position or opinion so that it’s the opposite of what they said before.

Today's story: Personal checks
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Reverse course

Today’s expression is to “reverse course.” You heard it right at the end of today’s main lesson . The Bank of England, hoping to modernize payments systems in Britain, proposed phasing out personal checks by 2018. That was back in 2009. But the howls of outrage came immediately. The English love their gardens. How were people supposed to pay their gardeners? How could they pay small businesses? How could they pay charities? What were the elderly and non-computer users supposed to do?

Never mind that Ireland, very similar in many ways to the UK, has successfully eliminated personal checks. Never mind that most of Europe have done the same. Never mind that many countries never had checks in the first place—and the elderly somehow manage. The public backlash was too much. And so, the Bank of England reversed course. The Bank of England stopped its proposal to eliminate checks and went in the opposite direction. They said checks could stay.

A person or organization reverses course when they change their position or opinion so that it’s the opposite of what they said before. The Bank of England said checks should be eliminated. Then, they changed their position and said the opposite: checks could stay. They reversed course.

We talked about sports betting a few weeks ago. In the US, sports betting is regulated at the state level so it’s legal in some states and illegal in other states. The western state of Wyoming voted not to allow sports betting. But the legislature quickly reversed course. They approved limited sports betting on mobile phones. They originally voted against sports all betting but then they reversed course and allowed some betting.

It’s very common to say “reverse course” when talking about public officials. If you oppose the actions of your governor, you can urge them to “reverse course.” It can be tricky to know why someone is reversing course. Is someone reversing course because it’s in the public interest, or for another reason?

To reverse course is not always a bad thing; it can sometimes be very good. Early in the coronavirus pandemic, public health authorities reversed course on a very important piece of advice. You might remember that scientists said in the beginning that face masks were not necessary because the virus spread on surfaces. But, as more information came to light , it became clear that the virus spread through close contact and even through the air. So, the public health authorities reversed course. They recommended wearing masks. They held the opposite opinion as they had earlier.

Many school districts also reversed course last year. Here in the US, things were looking good in June, which is the traditional end of the school year. That led many school districts to say they would open for in-person instruction at the beginning of the following school year in September. But then, we had a big summertime wave of COVID cases and school districts reversed course. They decided not to open for in-person instruction after all.

Quote of the Week

Time for a quote of the week—and it’s related to “reverse course.” This is also a famous quote in English, often attributed to the economist John Maynard Keynes. There are variations on this quote, but the most common version goes like this, “When the facts change,” Keynes supposedly said, “I change my mind. What do you do?”

Regardless of the exact quote or who said it first, we can keep this lesson in mind. There’s no shame in changing an opinion, or reversing course, especially when circumstances change. So, if someone ever criticizes you for changing your mind, you can borrow this quote from John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”

See you next time!

All right, that is all for today. Congratulations on making it to the end of another lesson. And if you were wondering, no, we don’t accept checks at Plain English Plus+ . Do feel free, however, to share in our free Facebook group if you’ve ever written a check and what your check-writing history looks like. Just go to PlainEnglish.com/Facebook and it will take you right there. JR says his primary education about the world of personal checks came from the movie “Blank Check.”

I promised you a lesson about Chile. That is coming up on Thursday. Remember to check out the free transcript and the rest of the full lesson at PlainEnglish.com/370. See you soon!

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Story: Personal checks