Friday 21 February 2014

Words and phrases I hate

Embedded image permalink

The phrase I most hate is 'his or her'. It is not wrong, of course, but very clunking and almost unknown until forty or fifty years ago. Much more correct is saying HIS to mean 'his or her'. 

But in my business emails I use 'his or her' for fear of some scandal. Max Beerbohm said that
the Nonconformist conscience doth make cowards of us all.
Nowadays feminism has taken over from the Nonconformist conscience but the two are essentially the same thing - puritanism.

My second great hate, germane to the first, is using 'their' to mean his (or her) - 'their' instead of 'his or her' is simply wrong. HIS is the word.

Of course I know that everyone says ' his or her' nowadays. This makes no difference. 

I am not criticising foreigners when I say I hate the following mistakes. My criticism is only for native speakers, of course, but the solecisms I hate (I do not claim to be original but I am very sincere) are 

1. 'Presently' used to mean at present rather than 'in a while'. This is the semantic equivalent of the sin against the Holy Ghost. Misusing 'presently' is not just ignorant but vulgar. It is the kind of thing you often get in e-mails full of impenetrable business jargon - the capitalist equivalent of the 'language of wood' used by Communists up to 1989.

2. 'Decimate' used to mean reduce to one tenth. It means reduce BY one tenth. There is no excuse for this, except I suppose ignorance.

3. 'Less' when 'fewer' is meant makes me react as if I heard a knife scraped against a plate.

4. 'Disinterested' used to mean 'uninterested' means the speaker or writer is not well-read.

5. 'Fulsome' used to mean 'full' or 'effusive', instead of insincere. This is a common, venial error, but annoying all the same.

Here is a site 
"for people who have silently wept into a crumpled copy of their workplace’s mission statement; who have been underpinned by a strategically aligned, innovative, creative, sustainable synergy."  
However much people say there is no reason why you shouldn't split infinitives it almost always sounds dreadful to me when they do. Shakespeare never split one and nor did John Dryden, Alexander Pope or the King James Version of the Bible. Dr. Johnson very rarely split one, although there was no prohibition in those days against them. That came as recently as the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, so the rule is not old but it is well-known. Rules are made to be broken but you should know what the rules are before you break them. I dislike split infinitives because they usually sound ugly, not because I am a clerical fascist or other social pariah.

On the other hand, I do not get cross about misusing 'comprise' to mean comprised of and I am not omniscient. I only recently learnt the difference between homogenous and homogeneous. 

People who read my blog a lot will also know that I hate it when people use Mumbai, Yangon, Beijing, etc. when writing English, rather than Bombay, Rangoon or Peking. We do not call Bucharest Bucuresti in English. I wish I could revive Persia and Constantinople and quite often do.

I dislike 'kids' to mean children and never use it except to mean young goats - and I also HATE 'hi'. And strangers calling me by my Christian name, though my software in the office, with which I send out mass mails, ashamed-makingly, makes me commit this solecism.

I once did not (often) say 'OK' but computers made that word inescapable. I used to say 'phone' but hearing an Etonian friend of exquisite good taste, a chevalier sans raproche, using the word 'telephone' made me resolve always to do so and I keep this up.

I was brought up to say 'five and twenty to' or after the hour when telling the time and kept this up until my mid thirties when someone mocked me for it and I let it drop. It is rather working-class. The only person other than my father who used it was a railway porter when I asked him the time.

I like the word 'ain't' which my parents told me earnestly never to use. I remember Enoch Powell shocking Bill Grundy by using it on TV. This was before the Sex Pistols shocked him out of his job by saying 'f-' on television. Now the f-word is commonplace on television, so I read, but 'nigger', even mumbled in an outtake, is a sacking offence. And so it goes. Does anyone use 'ain't' anymore? A boy who lived down the road whom I played with when I was little used to use it.

'Ain't' is perfectly correct, just vulgar. Pardon is non-U which is not the same as vulgar. I remember Jilly Cooper's child offended her neighbour by telling her that 'Mummy says it is better to say 'f-' than to say 'pardon'. This kind of snobbery about U and Non-U was the most lasting influence I brought away from Cambridge, I suspect.

I very much hate truanting, beloved of the BBC in the 1990s, instead of playing truant. Apart from being illiterate it has the sad smell of social workers about it.

I abominate Brit. I dislike Briton too which makes me think of bearded Druids. It's pompous and 18th century. 

(I am launching a campaign to say England when we mean Britain, but this is material for another post. I mean absolutely no disrespect to Scotland, a great country that I love with all my heart and hope one day to visit. But Disraeli signed the Treaty of Berlin as 'Prime Minister of England' and Churchill always spoke of England not of Britain. So did almost everyone until forty years ago.)

The truth is that a case can be made for all the words and phrases I object to being correct, on the ground that they have all been used in the past in the way I complain of and therefore are legitimate. Liberal and prescriptive attitudes to grammar, as to politics, are in the end disguised psychology, but split infinitives sound very bad and 'presently' misused is not the way civilised people speak. Perhaps it all comes down to class and attitudes to authority in the end. Lots of things do.

Here I stand. I can do no other. Please tell me what words and phrases annoy you.


  1. "That said..."

    Useless and unnecessary. Have noticed it only in the past few years.

    1. I have heard it all my life and it seems to serve a purpose - it is short for "although I said that nevertheless I also think".

  2. I hate it when I hear "Colonialism was simply delightful" ;)

    1. The Belgian Congo was the worst governed colony but ask the Congolese whether things were better or worse when the Belgians ruled them. I heard a leading Congolese historian tell the BBC man on the 50th anniversary of independence that everything was better under the Belgians than now. The BBC man sounded terribly shocked by this statement and said 'Surely you accept that the Belgians were not interested in the well being of the Congolese people?" to which the historian replied, ' I do not care what they were interested in. I simply know that everything was better before independence.'

  3. I have three. The use of 'female' as a noun when 'woman' should be used. 'Foetus' when 'fetus' is the correct spelling. The use of 'like' as an emphasis or exclamation instead of a verb.

    1. I love that American expression " and I am like why did you do that?" where 'am like' means 'say'. I thought foetus was correct - but I mourn the disappearance of real diphthongs such as œ and Œ.

  4. Paul, you should consider that these mistakes can be made by foreigners as well

    1. I was only thinking of native speakers when I said these things ignorant or vulgar. In foreigners these mistakes are completely normal as are much bigger ones. I am sure I am much worse when I speak Romanian.

    2. this is what wiktionary says on foetus: Hypercorrect spelling of fetus attested since the 16th century; from Latin fetus

  5. I am a woman. I do not like my business or possession referred to as "his" or myself referred to as "him." It would be amusing to refer to Mr Wood as "she" and see what "she" thinks.

  6. The use of the word 'enjoy', by itself, without an object grates (and dramatically spoils my enjoyment of whatever is its true object).
    'Whatever' used by itself as a response to a statement or question, I find extremely rude and disdainful.
    Because of my UK training, strangely, my feeling about 'fetus/foetus' are the exact opposite of Anonymous's

    1. I like 'whatever' used as a response. I like it a lot. 'Ma rog' in Romanian.

  7. My (least) favourite is use of the word "Ironically........" used as a preface to a description of a mild and unremarkable coincidence. Usually by a sports reporter.

    1. I remember that Alan Watkins thought people should say paradoxically instead of ironically in most cases and try to do this.

  8. That's one of my pet hates as well. Others: if I wasn't so DISINTERESTED in movies, I WOULD OF watched that film last night. Grrrr!!!

  9. Spurious hyphens in phrasal verbs along the lines of "What time are you going to get-up in the morning?"
    Use of "as far as..." without the "is/are concerned" at the end of the phrase.
    Use of "refute" to mean "rebut" (even though this usage has now become common enough to be supported by most dictionaries, I think "refute" should mean "demonstrate to be wrong".
    The word "disect" (for "dissect", presumably by confusion with "bisect").

    Pedants of the world, unite!

    1. ABSOLUTELY I agree with you about "refute" to mean "rebut" - I hate that so much. I forgot to add that to my blog post.

  10. Stuff white people like includes grammar.

  11. wonderful discussion. I could go on forever, but the very worst offender is that ghastly american phrase 'reach out' - as in 'Such and such person just REACHED OUT' to me'. Awful in any circumstances , but particularly if they are referring to an e mail they have received. Actually I feel quite ill just writing this.
    Sal Pajwani

  12. Sorry" seems to be the hardest word for politicians.

    1. I don't agree. Politicians say sorry far too often - for slavery, Margaret Thatcher's South African policy, Amritsar Massacre, etc. They even apologise for their own mistakes which seems somehow disingenuous to me.

  13. Am I the only one who wishes people used words like poetess and wants to fight for waitress and actress?

    1. Oh, well said, that man-person! A Director of a TEFL college once told me she’d been in retail management before language teaching. Over a drink with pupils, in discussing backgrounds, I mentioned to a young Japanese student, also formerly from retail, that this lady had been a Manageress. My rapport-building gambit was interrupted by a loud bellow from the lady in question: “MANAGER!”

      She then voiced into the embarrassed silence the opinion that “Manageress” was somehow demeaning in comparison to the masculine form. I asked how that sat with the duty to explain to her students how, even in uninflected English, certain nouns had feminine and masculine forms; wouldn’t that be helpful with pupils used to agreement of adjectives with nouns, and so on? And wouldn’t we be doing a disservice to pupils if they went away from the course with an aversion to lionesses, or an ignorance of vixens, or only half the vocabulary of cobs and pens, boars and sows, and so on?

      The lady maintained a stony silence. The Japanese chap cleared his throat and asked her: “So... should you be my hero or heroine?”

      It didn’t end well.


    2. I “can’t get my head around” (actually, I quite like that one) the objection to the feminine –ess ending. There are various surveys and edicts regarding what is “accepted” nowadays; the problem being that, when you track down the authorities doing the “accepting,” the trail inevitably leads to the Usual PC Suspects – whom I do not regard as valid arbiters of any standards applicable to the beautiful tool that is language (before we even get to behaviour, self-expression, thought-crime, doublethink, newspeak and any other sphere in which these people tend to frolic).

      The derivation from Greek issa is a perfectly valid etymology for ladies involved in sculpture, being a Duke or any other pursuit in which announcing yourself as female through a conscious evocation of your gender-specific agent noun would – I’d have thought – be an emancipating distinction to be able to make. “Diana, Prince of Wales” would have been the more patronising (and confusing) option, surely?

      With regard to “poetess”: this is, perhaps, one exception that should be made, in that anyone working creatively (poesis) with language ought to be able to reserve the decision on “ to ess or not to ess” (etymological pun, there: esse, to be)as a matter of her or his own more expert taste and craft. Indeed, word-making, as in coinage and rule-bending, really should be reserved for the poetically-inclined amongst us (it didn’t hurt the Anglo-Saxons when they were coming up with “whale-road” and so on, or the collective authors of the King James Bible, not to mention Shakespeare working solo). Better that the poets set the standards than, for example, those responsible for bitcoin, selfie and the rest.


  14. I hate the way the BBC has decided that we "take" decisions nowadays. In English, one "makes" decisions. This incorrect verb is a direct translation of the phrase from many European languages.
    In the name of EU harmonisation perhaps the BBC are planning to start "making" photographs as well.

  15. I am not very keen on the phrase I have been hearing intermittently for many years, "Tottenham Hotspur nil..........."

  16. May I just mention a few more words?
    I do hate reading drivel by recruitment "consultants" who put meaningless opposite-sounding words in pairs:

    - "Candidate required to reactively and proactively form successful relationships with upstream and downstream colleagues, clients and business partners, and engage all stakeholders in highly-matrixed as well as decentralised hubs of the organisation."

    What this actually means is that the company does not have strong leadership or any clear direction, the lines of authority are poorly defined, and whoever gets this job is supposed to make everyone in the the business collaborate, by magic.
    Veronica Hughes

  17. Veronica, your comment reminded me of this David Mitchell monologue on the use of the word 'passionate'.
    Funny for the 'fairly keen'.

  18. I suppose it’s the Hawking connection (I’m a Caian) but I’ve always loved the strange but compelling language of the universal speculations of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and so on (those charming “charmed” particles and the more recent strings and branes et cetera). These efforts to render what is essentially Higher Mathematics into English strike me as a modern take on the more lyrical – and actually, in human terms, meaningful – transformations of the Metaphysicals: John Donne adding a third dimension to the square/circle challenge and “cubing the sphere” in The Sunne Rising (“This bed thy centre is / These walls thy spheare”) for instance; or, much later, Thomas Hardy convoluting perspective with a diminishing vista that yet has a “yawning blankness” (a disappearing vanishing-point – how’s that for a geometry-bender!) in The Going (Hardy the architect, musician and classicist let loose on language and emotion: truly transformative miracles).

    Then again, watching a recent documentary on “What happened before the Big Bang,” it sometimes gets so frankly unreal that I’m forced to conclude that, when it comes to dealing with a unified theory of reality – it’s probably better left to the poets in the first place. Metaphor is so much more efficacious than formula, in the end (or beginning).

  19. The discussion seems to have gone well beyond the original issue of the words & phrases that make us cringe. Many of the comments refer to the differences between British & American English, & I shd. have thought we might gracefully agree to differ on foetus/fetus as we do on colour/color. (Early 19th-century English writers by the way often used the 'color' spelling.) And I do dislike the American 'transportation' for 'transport'---what Kathy calls a meaningless accretion.
    But many varieties of English have evolved in all quarters of the world, & Indian English is something else. To take two examples, I love 'prepone' (the opposite of postpone), a truly creative & useful neologism; but I cringe at 'one of my friend is gay', an often-seen construction which demonstrates the lack of even an elementary understanding of grammar.
    Janet Rizvi

    1. I have just been reading William Dalrymple who mentions some of the Anglo-Indian words, collected in the classic book of reference 'Hobson-Jobson'. Indian words that became English include pundit, verandah, bungalow, chit, shampoo, loot, juggernaut. cheroot, chintz, calico, gingham, mango, junk and catamaran.

  20. Burglarising used to be a mistake made by primary school children when I was younger, yet nowadays I hear it used frequently by Americans.

    Americans love adding extra words and syllables, though - burgling is simply too short for them. I think this is why they say horeseback riding instead of horse riding, for example. Either horseriding sounds too brief and terse for their ears, or perhaps they feel the need to specify which part of the horse's anatomy one rides upon in order to avoid mistakes.

    Whilst we're relishing things, may I mention how irritating I find the word flavoursome?
    What is wrong with tasty?

  21. I can just about stomach "leverage" in its technical, financial meaning. What I get a lot of the time is stuff like "We aim to leverage our brand equity". Whatever that means.

    Italian is mixed as far as gender-specific things are concerned. We use "dottoressa" in adressing emails to anyone we suspect might have a university degree but would shrink from addressing a female lawyer as "avvocatessa". Our foreign minister until a month ago or so, Emma Bonino, was always "ministro" and never "ministra" (as she would have been in Spain).

    As for Turkey, I don't know about your holidays there, but my experience of working with Turks is that Turkish companies can boast some very impressive managers - gender-specific language notwithstanding.

    But what's this got to do with "What frequently used word or phrase we most hate?" Nothing, I suppose except the use of the word "gender" when we really mean "sex".

  22. Gender to mean sex (as opposed to linguistic genders) has been used since the 14th century, according to the Oxford English dictionary.
    It says that gender is typically used instead of sex when referring to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones.

    1. Gender may have been used in the 14th century, but the Victorians were very fond of 'sex' (the word, not the activity - although given all those large families and the pages from Queen Victoria's diaries referring to the years of her marriage that Princess Beatrice saw fit to excise, it is possible that they also enjoyed the activity). Phrases such as 'the fair sex' or 'Madam, I am a man and have all the defects common to my sex' come to mind.

      The use of the word sex in a wider context - as in the song Your sex is on Fire - is rather more puzzling, although it did give Eddie Izzard the cance to do a wonderful 'stream of conscoiusness' routine about a very diffident Englishman approaching a woman in Fortnum and Masons, saying "Excuse me madam, I hope you dont mind me mentioning it but your sex seems to be on fire.....I am sure you may have noticed - it must be getting rather warm in there............"

      Oh dear, I seem to be rambling again; Nurse! the screens!

      Whenever I hear someone starting a presentation by saying "I'd like to share with you". I rather hope that he/she/it will be offering each of us a portion of their packed lunch; maybe they will attempt to repeat the Jesus mass-catering trick with five loaves and three fishes.

    2. I hate gender used other than as a grammatical term. I am sure it was thus used before but it came in suddenly in the late 80s or early 90s along with much else that is detestable such as partner instead of girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife.

      The Victorians certainly liked sex. Had they not there would have been no Edwardians.

  23. May I "share" this Case Study: "Transport Infrastructure Transversal Avian Motivation Solutions"?

    Deregulation of the road, poultryside, was threatening the chicken’s sector dominance. The subject was faced with significant challenges to source, create and develop the competencies required for the newly competitive marketplace, going forward. Competitor biota such as hedgehogs et al were already estimated to have substantively infiltrated the chicken's comedic domain expertise to a threatening level. Indeed, even certain organic non-avian factors (i.e. peanuts) had achieved incremental penetration of the chicken/highway interface and begun to further encroach upon the chicken's Unique Silliness Proposition within its humour-oriented market segment.

    In a partnering relationship with the client, we supported the chicken to reengineer its physical distribution strategy and implementation processes. Using the Poultry Integration Model (PIM), we helped the chicken deploy its skills, methodologies, knowledge, animal capital and experiences to align the chicken's people, processes and technology in support of its overall strategy within a Program Management framework. Deploying Blue Skies Thinking models, we opened up an innovative ornitho-transport infrastructure paradigm which allowed the client "permission" to undertake the transverse road journey from not only the Internal but also the External Chicken's perspective.

    Simultaneously, we convened a diverse yet focused cross-spectrum of road-analysts and "best chicken-practitioners" along with our own consultants with deep skills in the transportation industry to engage in a two-day itinerary of Open Space Interactions in order to leverage their personal knowledge capital, both tacit and explicit, and to enable them to synergise with each other in order to achieve the implicit goals in delivering and successfully architecting and implementing an enterprise-wide value framework across the continuum of Poultry Cross-median Processes. The session facilitated an impactful environment which was strategically based, industry-focused, and built upon a consistent, clear, and unified market message and aligned with the chicken's mission, vision, and core values. This was conducive towards the creation of a total business integration solution which was viral in its adoption, deploying social media and cutting edge stratagems which added further value to the key performance proposition moving forward, deselecting the one side of the road in favour of incremental progress towards the other, going forwards.

    In conclusion, we helped the chicken to experience a fundamental epiphany with regards to its unstated emotional needs regarding the road and what was on the other side. This change in market-orientation empowered the chicken to become more successful in its own right and thus more selective about those projects it would henceforth undertake. As the chicken itself reported: "Wow! Those guys showed me a better way to get to the other side! I'd never have seen it for myself. We had been, literally, 'winging it' for years with regard to our transportation strategy. Now we're all aligned on the same path... which is still on the same side of the road, actually... but with the new ‘Outside the Coop’ Paradigm we have a whole new mindfulness tool-kit to deploy in our responsible corporate stance towards the environment. And we no longer need to cross the road at all to have 'fun'!"


  24. To those who dislike 'spouse' I might mildly add that there may be an element of chicken and egg. 'Spouse' sounds formal and rather off-putting, but perhaps that's because we don't use it much. In Dutch the word for spouse, echtgenoot, is used a lot. It feels quite friendly and normal, being based on the old word for a marriage, 'echt', which is also used in terms like 'echtpaar' (a married couple) and 'echtscheiding' (a divorce---literally the separation of a marriage). Strictly speaking, a man is an 'echtgenoot' while woman is an 'echtgenote' but that slight difference is purely a matter of grammar. I find it a graceful way of referring to a spouse of either sex: in English it still sounds rather awkward (to me at least) to talk of a man having a 'husband' or a woman having a 'wife', but an 'echtgenoot' in Dutch can refer perfectly comfortably to a marriage partner of either sex and there is no reason why 'spouse' could not do the same in English.
    Kathy Love

  25. The word I really really hate - because although Latin it is also an Americanism - is alumnus - and I know Evelyn used it. I hate alum much more.

  26. I strongly like the word 'ain't' which we were told as children never to say. Enoch Powell also used it. It seems to have gone out completely in England. Am I right? How should I know, living as I do in the Balkans?

  27. Absolutely. It annoys me intensely when it is used as a simple affirmative. Very few things in life are absolute; most are relative, so a better response to a statement might be "Quite."

    The tendency (imported from the USA?) to begin a sentence "So..." when the word is utterly unnecessary.

    I agree that 'less' used when 'fewer' is correct drives me potty.

    Why does every young female need to be called a woman and not a girl? Why do so many women insist on being called ladies? Are we all aristocrats these days?

    Thans for the chance to let off steam, Paul.

  28. The George Herbert poem that follows uses a grammatical technique to render celestial music and audible silence; so I trust it’s on topic – as if I needed an excuse to get Metaphysical on y’all!

    The invisible verb “to be” (“is” is omitted after the first word) is technically “understood”. Everything after “Prayer” is in apposition, as if there were an “equals” sign between it and the glories that follow. So all the subsequent imagery is delivered with a tension as we wait for the verb to appear; but its energy is supplied instead by the rhythm of the accumulating erudite, allusive language, building like a peal of bells and running like the blood, until we reach a synaesthetic (emotional, intellectual, linguistic) climax in the divine music of the spheres and on one word… “understood”!

    PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
    Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
    The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
    The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth ;

    Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner's towre,
    Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
    The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
    A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ;

    Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
    Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
    Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
    The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

    Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
    The land of spices, something understood.

  29. What troubles me about much of this correspondence is that there is an element of snobbism, of the "I know better than you" variety, running through much of it. The nit-picking pedantry of many of the foregoing comments ignores the bigger picture in the development of the English language. First, the English really no longer have the right to consider themselves the arbiters of the language: the major English-speaking "nationals" today are the Americans, who - in my experience - also often speak and write English more correctly than their trans-Atlantic sires. So maybe only the Americans now have the right to call the linguistic shots? Secondly, English is now an accepted medium of communication for around two billion people, and to me it seems invidious to set different standards for "national" and "non-national" speakers - an elite dismissing the unfortunate others as second-class? Particularly when, here too, many of those second-class non-nationals actually write and speak better English than the majority of the "elite" nationals. Therefore, I say, let the 0.0001% of English speakers who obsess about the niceties of the language chatter among themselves without casting aspersions upon the overwhelming majority who simply use English as a means of communication, rather than a subject for microscopic and frequently subjective analysis! And, by the way, the guy who insisted that "fetus" is a correct spelling is just plain wrong - he clearly needs a good etymological dictionary ...

  30. "Work hard, play hard." and "If you think about it."

  31. Here are some things that GET my GOAT:

    1. “as such” – never adds anything and always superfluous 

    2. “at all” (as in “would you like some coffee at all?”) – never adds anything and always superfluous;

    3. use of the words “passion” or “passionate” in a business context (God I hate that) – white may be the new black but business is certainly not the new Marguerite Duras;

    4. language that ties itself in knots because of drafting in the plural – you should always draft in the singular (i.e. using each, etc.)

    Like you:

    1. I hate split infinitives – like a bum note played in the middle of a piano sonata;
    2. I have no problem with “That said” – very useful legal technique. Also much shorter (and less surreal) than “on the other hand”;


  32. I have just read a short article by Simon Callow called 'If I ruled the world 's Prospect magazine and thought some of you would appreciate his thoughts on two points in particular:

    "Inevitably, it is language and its development (or retardment) that concerns me most. I note with rising anxiety the systematic realignment in emphases which is slowly turning our language from an essentially iambic one (da-dah) into a trochaic (dah-da) or even dactylic (daah-da-da) one. This is most noticeable in words beginning with “re”—now pronounced REsearch, REmit, REtard, as if the thing being done was repeated—or REpeated, as I have heard. REhearsal cannot be far behind. Presumably the attraction of this is that it starts the word with a bang, but it slows the flow of words and distracts from their content. The real loser here is Shakespeare whose verse, and that of most of his contemporary dramatists, follows the natural rhythm of English speech and is therefore iambic and comes, as the man said, trippingly off the tongue. But it will cease to do so if tongues and ears are no longer accustomed to it.

    However, I concede that even my omnipotent powers will be hard put to it to enforce this linguistic refinement. There is, however, one diktat I shall impose without fear or favour: the word “pop,” except as a diminutive of the word popular, a description of a fizzy drink, or the onomatopoeic evocation of a sound, will be banished. This is not a word, it is a virus, which has been eating up the English vocabulary. It is now used as a substitute for virtually any verb. The other day I went to a clinic in which the nurse told me to pop my clothes off, pop myself up on the bed, pop my head down on the pillow. The doctor would pop by any moment now. When it was over, I could pop along to the cashier, pop my card in the machine and then pop off. If this goes on, there will be no verbs left. My anti-pop law will be the first passed under my new regime."

    I feel he is one of us! ;-)

  33. << Moving forward >> {A breezy way of saying "Let's now talk about important stuff and leave your old-fashioned rubbish behind."}

    I hardly dare start on the others, or I'll never stop.

    << Are we on the same page? >>

  34. Another serious pet hate of mine is:

    “I hope this e-mail finds you well.”

    I suppose it could mean “I hope you receive this e-mail right after I send it and with all the text and enclosures intact and legible”, but I don’t think that’s the intention of most people who write this. Since when has an e-mail actually found anyone? Is it a heat-seeking e-mail looking specifically for you? What if you are lying next to your desk in a pool of blood with a samurai sword sticking out of your belly? Does that mean the e-mail has found you dead, thereby dashing the hopes of the sender? Grrrr…

  35. "Absolutely", "Kids"... John Sullivan

  36. I read an article suggesting that OK originally came from Baltimore in the 1860s. Mark Griffith

    1. Who knows? It was A.O.K. at one time and just occasionally you meet this version.

      In Anthony Trollope's very dull novel Is He Popenjoy? 'terribly' was the daring young upper class slang - like wicked circa 1990.

    2. The story of OK I read was that there was a humorous fashion for deliberate and bizarre misspellings in newspaper articles in Baltimore in the 1850s or 60s (by which the phrase oll korrekt became referred to by "OK") and then this got fixed when a local politician with those initials (some name like Oliver Kelling) stood for election, and his banners and flyers all marked "OK!" somehow spread this local form and turned a temporary joke into a long-term usage in a few parts of the East Coast, albeit still local within the larger United States - only really getting better known when the world wars brought soldiers from many states together in close quarters.

      I read somewhere else that < wicked > and < bad > had a pre-life among 1940s jazz musicians, then went underground only to re-emerge later.

      Probably even older than that.

  37. I really hate the phrase "at the end of the day"

    1. A political cliche it was the title of a charming comedy about Harold Wilson and Edward Heath by William Douglas Home that I saw as a child in about 1974. I loved the deeply unfashionable William Douglas Home and his brother too.

  38. the word 'outwith' is an abomimation.

    1. Oh definitely - I never heard it before - does it mean 'without'? I HATE a word I recently met - used by D. Cameron - outage, which I think means power cut.

  39. "To be fair" is my pet peeve.


  40. He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever. (Chinese proverb)
    He who blames others has a long way to go on his journey.
    He who blames himself is halfway there. He who blames no one has arrived.
    (Chinese proverb)
    He who breaks a thing to find out what it is, has left the path of wisdom. (J.R.R. Tolkien)
    He who builds to every man's advice will have a crooked house. (Danish proverb)
    He who buys what he does not need steals from himself.
    He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed. (Albert Einstein)
    He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass. (George Herbert)
    He who can take no interest in what is small, will take false interest in what is great.
    He who dies with the most toys, is, nonetheless, still dead.
    He, who doesn't hope to win has already lost. (Simon Bolivar)
    He who fails to prepare, prepares to fail.
    He who feels that he is too small to make a difference has never been bitten by a mosquito.
    He who has a thing to sell and goes and whispers in a well
    is not as apt to get the dollars
    as he who climbs a tree and hollers.
    He who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree.
    He who hesitates is not only lost, but miles from the next exit.
    He who is not grateful for the good things he has would not be happy with what he wishes he had.
    He who kneels before God can stand before anyone!

  41. People question if rules are important. This is from a mass email from a Labour MP:
    '...I'm backing Tom because, like tomorrow, he is the deputy leader candidate that understands that if we are going to win we have to be out talking to voters. Taking our message to them, both ahead of the elections next May in London, and of course 2020. He is the only deputy candidate with a track record of solid campaigning.
    I hope you will join Tom and I for the campaign session and/or the Q&A tomorrow....'

  42. I copied this blog post on to a LinkedIn group I belong to and asked for comments and we had reached over 500 comments on the thread when it suddenly vanished because I told the following story.

    'I read a letter to the Spectator three or four or years back from a man who said his family bought a black retriever in 1949 and called him Nigger, but "by 1961 even my mother, who was by no means a woman of progressive social views, found she no longer had the heart to stand at the back door calling out 'Nigger' and so we changed his name to Peter". '

    LinkedIn have a software that automatically removes threads that use the word 'nigger'.

  43. There are so many words that can and should be outlawed: it is hard to know where to begin.
    touch base
    coming from (as in I hear where you’re coming from)
    Cheers (instead of Thank you)
    No problems (probs)

    guys (as in You guys)
    get my head round it
    you alright there ? [May I help you ?]
    heads up
    a “shout out”
    Stay safe (2020-21)

    Hi !
    Take care
    See you
    dialogue (meangingful)
    run it past you (or, by you)
    Alright ?