Friday, 18 December 2009

Situation? What situation?

Over at CNN, a list of the "ten worst phrases to use at office". (I'm not sure whether "at office" is American English, or headlinese or what.) It's pretty random, but it's hard to disagree with most of it. There's a little bit of barminess at the end though, with the suggestion that we should replace the word "crisis" with "situation".

Dare I say that the results of Yougov's survey last year are more interesting and useful than the opinions of a single individual? ;-)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

"Mind your Slanguage"

BBC Radio has broadcast a new discussion programme about modern British slang, and you can hear it here. I doubt there's much to make a fuss about. Okay, it is a problem if kids can't express themselves in any other way, but (a) that is rarely true, since they have plenty of experience of talking to parents and teachers, and (b) once they get out into the "real world" they'll learn to speak in whatever ways are necessary in order to survive.

The suggestion that "exam results have soared as a consequence" of a "ban" on slang at a high school (Manchester Academy) can be taken with a pinch of salt.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Egress to the buildings?

Blowing their imaginary trumpets

Iain Dale has justifiably got the hump about "The BBC has learned..." and "Sky sources say..."

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Commonly confused words #2

Chaise lounge

Chaise longue

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

"The Diploma" and other New Labour language crimes

Whenever I get around to writing a guide to Idlish, a large chapter will be devoted to the inanity of the present government. New Labour seems to have no feel for the language and is happy to abuse it at every opportunity. Surprisingly (?) this trend is most noticeable in education. Grant-maintained schools were renamed "foundation" schools despite their having no foundation; many high schools have been misleadingly and confusingly rebranded as "specialist colleges"; and now they've called the new school-leaving qualifications "The Diploma", despite the fact that diplomas, unlike certificates, have traditionally normally been further-education qualifications. The pattern here is clear: take something relatively high-level and grand-sounding and misapply it to the ordinary, everyday stuff that the morons in the Government think will otherwise sound too boring.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Said intentional

I'd forgotten about this piss-poor journalistic device: using "said" instead of inverted commas.


Crash into restaurant said intentional

I know headlinese is a clipped form of the language, but it should still make sense.

via TheEmperfect

Sunday, 25 October 2009

One out of three ain't bad

Victoria Square, 31 August

New Street, Birmingham, yesterday

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Say what?

Zoe Ball says her new TV show proves "you don't have to be a genius to be Britain's best brain."

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Silly Oak

Spotted in Selly Oak, Birmingham...

I can just about understand the concept of a "non-fault accident" (which I guess means "non-YOUR-fault accident") but how on earth do you manage an accident??

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Vorsprung durch Biscuit

My wife likes Bahlsen's Choco Leibniz biscuits, so we often have some in the pantry. But their presence weighs heavy on my pedantic mind. There it is, in my home, the yellow box with its (in)famous slogan:

More chocolate than a biscuit

Eh? It should be "More chocolate than biscuit"! (They're about two-thirds choc.) I can only imagine that this slogan was the victim of hypercorrection in the seminar room.

Reactions vary...

Interesting article about the marketing of Bahlsen biscuits, by Meiklejohn and Crane.

Thanks to Blogrot for th'ace title.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Verbal tics

Most speakers, and most writers, have verbal tics. Words, phrases and patterns that they overuse. Sometimes they make us sound stupid to some people, even to ourselves. But we should go easy on each other (and on ourselves) since harping on these impediments will only make communication more difficult.

For the time being, I'm going to split these tics into two categories: fillers and cliches. Fillers are things like "um", "er", "like", "you know", and they often litter the speech of poor or inexperienced communicators. Cliches are phrases - often metaphors and other figurative expressions - that made us sound more interesting when they were original but nowadays have exactly the opposite effect. An iconic example, currently under discussion over at LL, is "at the end of the day". Americans tend to label this as typical management-speak, while here in Britain we associate it with sports people. In fact, as Mark Liberman has been seeking to demonstrate, this cliche knows no bounds - it's used by every sort of person in every register.

on Jeremy Kyle

the lovely Lauren Luke

Michael McIntyre

Daily Telegraph competition

Tim Kidwell at WSJ

the T-shirt



Unlike a lot of peevologists, I acknowledge two things: 1. English doesn't have "rules", and 2. the English language is always changing, and will continue to change whether we like it or not.

At the same time, I do still wonder whether some things that break the non-existent rules can be made to go away. For example, people using "phenomena" to mean "phenomenon". Of course, most people who make this mistake don't realise the latter word exists, or if they do, they think it's just the same thing.

Which kind of Canute should I try to be? The one who tries to stem the flow? Or the one who knows that that would be pointless?

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Calling out sick

Okay, I'm not against people in the NE US using the NE US dialect term "call out sick", but it suddenly seems to be spreading like the dreaded lurgy itself. C'mon people, it makes no sense! Stick to calling in sick.

Via Grammar Girl

Friday, 18 September 2009

Dan Brown...

The Greatest Author of the 21st Century has a new book out. The Telegraph has thrown together a piece about the infelicities of his writing, and the comments have come flooding in. Entertaining.

Geoff Pullum's (in)famous series of articles about the execrable Mr B are referenced here.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Idiot Algorithm

I don't know whether you're getting the same thing, but the Google ad appearing at the top of my "Thanks" post says, and I quote:

Rear crash ratings
Huge range, low prices!
Buy rear crash ratings


Thank you very much indeed

I'm afraid I'm one of those people whose hackles are raised when someone ends a message "Thanks in advance" but at least the poor sods who do it don't know any better. The same can't be said of the TV newsreaders, reporters and interviewers who insist on overthanking everyone they talk to. They get a guy (yes, Iain, I mean you!) into the studio to review the newspapers - not an especially onerous task, and not unpaid - and thank him as if he's agreed to say a few words after being rescued from a burning building.

Can you imagine what it would be like checking out at the supermarket if we all behaved in this way?

Assistant passes you some carrier bags.
you: "Thank you ever so much."
You hand over some money.
you: "Thank you very much indeed."
You leave.
you: "Ever so kind of you. Goodbye now."
Assistant stares after you, pityingly.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Before and after

Spot the difference...

(I've still got the apostrophe in my bag somewhere.) By the way, can you see what the council is doing with all its unwanted apostrophes?!

On the waltzer

Nice fair, cheap and cheery.

"Furious backlash"? Who died?

The peevologists are at it again, this time in Preston. (Notice that the first person to reply to the article makes two spelling mistakes - Skitts Law in action.) Although we may not like it, councils are right to omit apostrophes from road and street signs. That way consistency lies.

Kill the Apostrophe goes too far, I think, in wanting an end to all of them, everywhere. The possessive apostrophe (John's) is unnecessary, but we probably need the omission apostrophe (we'll, don't).

Thanks to Grammar Girl for the heads-up, and to The Ridiculant for its take on this.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

No uplifting

A lovely bit of Idlish spotted by Adam the Plumber

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Lowercase L

One of IE's weirder phenomena is the way some people don't capitalise the letter L when they're writing in capitals. Its psychology is still unexplained, to me at least, and I continue to be fascinated by the collection of examples on William Levin's blog.

So I wonder whether it was an isolated incident this morning when my daughter, copying ABPLUS off a pocket torch onto a sticker, produced this:

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Toilet humour

Czech company Walmark brings us this potion. Although the name isn't very palatable, at least it leaves you in no doubt what the capsules are for...

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Crystal-ball marketing

Just got an email (dated 4 August) from Verbaudet, "Take a peek at our autumn bestsellers." Here's the body of the email.

I guess "bestseller" here means "stuff Verbaudet have bought most stock of".

Friday, 10 July 2009

Not much of an epitaph

I don't mind headlinese per se, but some practitioners are better at
it than others. I was taken aback just now by this headline at BBC

Botched op footballer's wife dies

Not only is it poorly formed, its tone seems disrespectful.

I notice that their previous story on this topic had the headline:

Ex-footballer wife's health blow

I presume the writer didn't like the look of two possessives in a

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

appreciate of

"I would appreciate of this book." comments a guy on Facebook from Dothan, Alabama.

Appreciate of? Where did that come from? I assumed, correctly, that my find wasn't a one-off. A quick Google search turned up:

If you have decided on your career objectives, we would appreciate of description of them. (Alaska)
If you have items you think we might be able to use, or if you would like to contribute your time to assist in one of the many projects we have on-going, we would appreciate of these contributions, as well. (Georgia, US)
I would appreciate of synopsis of when and how fetal cells for transplant are obtained. (unknown)
I would appreciate of any help. (Mauritius)
Some of the required data are still missing thus we would appreciate of any completion of the already available data set. (Germany)
We thought that you would appreciate of being able to read the older Samui (and beyond) news any time. (Thailand)
Stick a bird feeder or two near the pond, I'm sure the birds would appreciate of full smorgesbord of nuts and mozzies. (Devon, England)
Should contents, layouts and designs on our site harm the rights of third parties or violate legal rules and regulations we would appreciate of being informed accordingly without costs. (Germany)
i would appreciate of your responses. (Malaysia)
I would appreciate of getting readers views of their measurement needs related to downloadable media. (unknown)

There's also a suspiciously large number of instances of "would appreciate of" that clearly mean "would appreciate (it) if". I suppose these could all be typos, but perhaps there are people who actually say "of" in this context also.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Had to say it

I'm sure he's a nice guy, but Shia LaBeouf is a stupid name.

Friday, 26 June 2009

How convient

Sighted on the Dudley Road, here in Birmingham:
I wonder which day they were closed?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Beware: carnivorous products

At least they don't eat children. (Photo taken in our local Co-op.)

Everything Possible

"I spoke to Prime Minister Maliki in Iraq last night and I emphasised our determination to do everything we can to secure the release of the remaining hostages."

Not for the first time, the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has been telling us that he's doing "everything possible". Why do politicians go on generalising so blatantly, despite the fact that it's so dumb and patronising? Old habits die hard, I guess.