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