Wednesday 28 March 2018

Lightening the Tone

It's all been a bit heavy of late, n'est-ce pas?  So let's lighten up.

Several years have elapsed since I last moaned (and you all jumped in) about the illiteracy of public discourse - not least in the writings of supposedly, err, educated Grauniad writers.  My bugbears on that occasion were the copiously misused terms elide, kudos and failsafe.

I have another.

It's hapless.
Don’t mock the ‘hapless’ Brexiters – they are still pulling all the strings
In America, Trump voters see any criticism of their hapless president as an attack on themselves
... holding signs aloft that decried endemic American gun violence, hapless politicians and the extremist gun rights movement
All from the Graun over the last few days.  Manifestly, most people think it means something like an erudite combination of hopeless and useless.  And it doesn't.

Your favourite bĂȘtes noires



Raedwald said...

Mine is curb. Which as a lad was a bit of bridle harness one used to limit the movements of a horsey given to throwing its head about, but which now is used everywhere in place of kerb.

Sorry. I'll get my anorak.

Electro-Kevin said...

"Brought" when they mean "bought."

"We brought this house in 1975"

I heard the same silly man (65 and should know better - wears pre-ripped jeans) saying "I bought some beer with me."

It comes from the football terraces.

I also dislike 'pace' as in "He ran up the field with pace" or "That lad's got pace"

What pace ? Fast ? Slow ? Describe it.

I'm sure I commit many crimes against our language myself.

andrew said...


Hear it over and over on R4 today

"I refute that"

... and then no refutation.

Drives me up the wall, tells me the speaker's first language is not English even if they clearly know no other, and imo, shows that they are talking out of their arse.

Charlie said...

Factoid. Not, as most of Twitter seems to think, a small fact; actually an unreliable fact that has, through repetition, been accepted as a fact.

Disinterested. Nope, the young aren't "disinterested" in voting. They're uninterested.

Travesty. Not the same thing as a tragedy.

The thing that most amazes me about reading your average internet comments page, regardless of the publication hosting it, is how thick most people are.

Jan said...

So................ at the beginning of every sentence

Absolutely ............when yes would do

Rein and reign in written internet posts...........I'm beginning to be confused myself!

Should of instead of should have.............but that's an old one

I could go on.....................

purplepangolin said...

+1 for Refute.

Similarly, rebut, which I would normally expect to come with a counter-argument. However, checking the dictionary I see that it offers claim or prove that (evidence or an accusation) is false so perhaps I am wrong.

I tend to think the strength of the term goes Refute > Rebut > Reject

Anonymous said...

EK @ 11.35
'Brought" when they mean "bought."'
Your friend must get very confused at a 'Bring and buy ' sale.

Anonymous said...

+1 For how thick most people come across through the medium of internet commentary! (most) Present company excluded.

John in Cheshire said...

My two current words and phrases I live to hate, both I think are Americanisms:

1. " Here's the thing..."
2. Pry instead of prise

Charlie said...

Straying a little from the post's original topic of misused terms, but someone brought up the hated "should of"... how the hell do people manage to leave school unable to tell the difference between "of" and "have", without knowing the difference between they're/there/their, your/you're and its/it's, and without any idea of how to use apostrophes? We had such things drilled into our heads, in a very ordinary school, in the mid-90s. I don't buy the argument that this is the product of a society hooked on text messaging and tweeting. Many people who do both things also manage to spell simple words correctly. Don't get me started on adverbs, which seem to have disappeared from the average Joe's vocabulary altogether.

english teachers should hang they're head's in shame and sort it out quick

Electro-Kevin said...

Charlie - Not so much a failure education as a lack of care. Laddo says "Can I get ..." in shops and he's pretty well educated.

Electro-Kevin said...


I tried to tell Dad on his death bed a funny about my dog (pictured.)

Me "He's a clever boy. When he wants a poo he goes up to the door spring and twangs it - boiyoiyoiyoinggg !!!!"

Dad "If he was that clever he'd just shit on the floor."

dearieme said...

I'd like to drive a stake through the heart of "stakeholder".

Except in matters of statistics, "significant" is almost always just a bombastic, pompous, and affected way of saying ... what, exactly? "Important" maybe?

Charlie said...

Kev - my girlfriend used to say, "Can I get...?", but a long, grinding campaign (involving me repeatedly telling her that the cafe staff will get it for her) saw that fixed... and we're still together!

Y Ddraig Goch said...

+1 for "should of"

1. It's an old one, but "sour grapes" is almost always wrongly used to mean "envious" or "resentful". I can't remember the last time I heard it used correctly.

2. Nouns used as verbs eg "we expect Hoskins to medal at the Olympics".

3. "Leverage" when "use" conveys the same meaning.

Elby the Redneck said...

"The exception proves the rule"

Proves means "test", not "confirm". Not to mention that the default reading is palpable nonsense.

Spelling current bugbear - "loose" for "lose"

Thought. A new crime, "Justifiable homicide" for, for example, those who commit such verbal and linguistic crimes. Also, ponytails on over 50s. Any rat's tails. Littering from a moving car. Not acknowledging when one gives way.

Pile in. Then lobby your MP.

andrew said...

There is a new one that some colleagues are using - not heard in the MSM

'you know what...'

as in you know what, apples are generally blue.

Electro-Kevin said...

People arriving and pushing straight ahead at bars without consideration for people already standing there with their money out.

Elby - Could you or Lilith contact me via email if poss ?

Steven_L said...

Believe it or not there are a large number of Trading Standards Officers who say "premise" when they mean "premises". It doesn't help matters that many of the worst offenders are the self appointed experts who give training courses and managers who folk like to brown nose.

So I've started including it is course feedback if the tutor gets it wrong.

(with the usual apologies to ND of course for starting a sentence with 'so')

Thud said...

I'm scouse so crimes against the Queens English is in me dna lid!....sad to say.

Nick Drew said...

An extremely worthy fellow-councillor of mine was wont to draw himself up to full height in the Chamber and say, with the utmost gravity:

Mr Mayor, I am mindful to support the motion before us ...

(but hardly a prevalent offence, just a Toytown idiosyncracy, really)

Scrobs. said...

"Gwanthen" instead of "Thank you"...

and"Yarawright" instead of "Good morning"!

Oh for the days when I used to be "Squire"!

I saw some very useful plastic tubing going spare on a building site last year. I asked the foreman if it was going begging, as it is great material for making cloches for the vegetables.

When he eventually asked the owner, I heard him say to her, "Old chap over there wants to know if he can have the old tube"...

"Old chap" - pah - that's a first for me personally, but I always use it on others, so these things come back to bite you, or at least give you a nasty suck...)!

(Scroblene is seventy and a half)...

formertory said...

"Amount" used interchangeably with "number"

Disinterested and uninterested +1

"How are you?" - "I'm good, thanks". (I enquired after your health, not your moral compass)

"So" at beginning of sentences +1

The persistence with which media of all types - including those so-called guardians of the English language, the BBC - refer to a single item as though it were plural: "The BBC have..." when they mean "the BBC has...", "the team have" (only one team so it's "has") and so on.

Oooh now I'm grumpy :-)

Electro-Kevin said...

"So" has become a replacement for "Well"

"What will this new treatment for acne do for Remain voters ?"


I'm not so irritated by it since my boy pointed it out.

(Sorry about my posting at 2.50. I forgot we were meant to be lightening the tone, not lowering it.)

"Can I get..." still annoys me though. If I were the waiter I'd respond "You after my f****ng job are you !"

Anonymous said...

Think it might be a corporate thing at the place I work:

"Across the piece"

In reference to almost any subject, concept, theme, department, group of people, committee, you name it. Everything. It seems to be used so frequently that I often get it confused with:

"The Landscape". For example: "The landscape we are operating in is becoming increasingly uncertain"

Not being funny boss, but we're in an office not on a field trip.

+1 for a stake through the heart of "Stakeholder"

Anonymous said...

Does anyone still play 'bullshit bingo' at company presentations, or did that die with final salary pensions?

djc said...

Lightening instead of lightning.

Utilise when use would serve as well.