As I was saying….

Fortune is kind. Just when I thought I’d run out of jargon to complain about, a whole lorry load of linguistic horrors tips out its cargo at once.First of all, though, I’d like to pick on one or two I forgot to include last time.

Let us consider ” passionate.” It used to mean Romeo and Juliet, Cathy and Heathcliff, King Lear, Churchill’s speeches. No more. It is now nothing more than a husk of a word, a meaningless mouth noise, something to paint on the side of a van. I have seen ” We are passionate about roofing repairs” and ” Waste disposal is our passion” You cannot be serious , man ! Are you telling me that Tom the Roofer would prefer to lay tiles in the pitch dark, rather than go home to his wife and children ?

And then there are “solutions” – they used to be coloured liquids in the chemistry lab. Now they promise instant gratifications – “Dirty laundry solutions”  “Lawn Seeding Solutions” – I even saw ” H2oHighPress Solutions for all your cleaning problems” – which is redundant in about four different ways.

However, I have tapped a rich vein of verbal manure in the business section of the current BBC website. It’s about Davos  (wasn’t he the villain in Doctor Who?) and the economic gobbledegook which passes for conversation there.

How about ” web of interconnectedness”  Could you have a web of disconnectedness ?


“Thought Leader” – I’ve no idea what it means and it scares the crap out of me. It has strong hints of Orwell and “1984” Is – and I whisper the thought- Trump a Thought Leader ? Nah… He doesn’t do thinking.

Last one, I promise:

“Multi-stake holder platforms”

I know what this is. It’s all to do with railways. Every station will have special platforms for passengers holding more than one  Big Mac – (multi steak/stake holders.)… geddit ?


Quantum Theory for Cats

We need to talk about jargon

When I was a student and green in judgement, I thought, foolishly, that the purpose of language is to communicate meaning. I was wrong. That’s part of it, certainly, but it has many other purposes as well.

Language, and the way we use it, is a social indicator. People who have a shared purpose, or  come from the same social class, usually have a shared language. Recently I read an interview with the head of a new academy in London. He said that mid morning break would cease, and lessons would run straight through till lunchtime.The interviewer asked him how children could get a drink mid morning, and his reply was ” Pupils will be able to self-hydrate during the teaching process” which means, in English that the kids could have a swig of juice during double maths. What he was really saying was ” Education is a complex process, with its own language, which is far too complex for snotty journalists to understand.” He was using language as a barrier, not a gateway.

Sometimes jargon starts as an imaginative use of language and ends in a cliche. How about “level playing field”- as opposed to those sixty degree playing fields where the players have to rope themselves together before taking a kick. Or ” across the piste`” which takes you to blue skies and crisp snow and away from deciding which internet provider you will choose. Or what about “roll out” as in ” the roll-out of a new government initiative” – do you know where it comes from ? The aviation industry. It refers to rolling the latest superjumbo out of the hangar. Well..maybe it was a bit clever once…but’s a mega cliche.

But the worst kind of jargon is the stuff which is just gobbledygook. When Theresa May says ” I am clear” – which she does every five minutes – it means nothing. If it means anything at all, it means ” I know” – and if you do know, why do you have to tell everyone about it ?

“Going forward” – need I say more. It is a waste of breath, a mouth filler which gives you time to find out what you want to say next.

But the one which really bugs me is “unacceptable” – it’s a mean, weaselly, milk-and-water word. A magistrate who says ” Your behaviour his unacceptable” to the crim in the dock is dodging the moral element. If he belted an old lady over the head it’s not just unacceptable, it’s downright wrong.

It is time for my lunch. I shall self-hydrate during the eating process and watch the tv news which will update me on the latest roll-outs across the piste. I am clear about this.

Quantum theory for cats


I’m soooo …like …pissed

Let’s get this straight from the start.I’m not one of those ancient fuddy-duddies who believe that the Queen’s English should remain sacrosanct  and never change. I’m just interested ( and sometimes perturbed) about the way spoken English is changing at the moment.

Let us take, for instance, pissed. In English English it has always means drunk – “pissed as a newt” for instance. But in American English it means” angry” as in “pissed off” I was a bit frightened to read that  President Trump (whom God preserve) was seen to be “pissed” – I thought for a moment that the Leader of the Western World was rolling around on the floor singing ” Nellie Dean.” Sadly, he wasn’t.

So we come to “so” It’s always been a useful little word – a conjunction that links two halves of a complex sentence viz :

“It was raining SO he took his umbrella”

Or as a way of measuring :

“It was so big, he had to buy an extra seat for it on the train”

This second meaning is soooooo common now, that a neat little word has blossomed into something that sounds like a sick cow. Its use is very colloquial  and ( maybe I’m wrong here) slightly camp.

So has also  taken on a new role as throat clearer. It gives the nervous tv interviewee a moment to gather her/his thoughts before answering the question.

So I’m happy about pissed (just about) and I’m soooo delighted for so. But I really dislike…like.

It’s real meaning has almost completely disappeared. It is nothing more than a verbal tic-

“He’s like…and I’m like…..and then we like….”

“Like” is a BAD THING because it fudges and distorts  meaning. It makes language cruder and less precise. I’m a bit pissed about “like” – in the American sense.

Everything changes  going forward…you see…going forward ! Don’t get me started on that one. ” Going forward” makes me really pissed.


Quantum Theory for Cats

The Lake In Winter

I always end up writing about the lake – I don’t know why. It’s only a minute from my front door – so perhaps it’s the easy access which makes me choose that dog-walking route rather than any other. And I always have something to write about.

The lake is constantly changing – for the last ten days it has had a crust of ice on it – sometimes three or four inches thick, sometimes transparent as cellophane

This is a diary poem – a marker for something I saw, which I don’t want to forget.

Lake – January 2018

Light leaks into the air;
clouds take their substance
from the the morning twilight.

The stripped trees hold
magpies  sneering,
clattering their wings.

The grass is blanched with frost,
puddles splintered glass
and the lake alive
with shifting rafts of ice

where a swan struggles

snake neck stretched,
webs strive for grip
as white wings thrash the water,
till it lifts, makes the air
sing with every wingbeat.


“Quantum Theory for Cats” available here

I’ve been reviewed

In fact ” Quantum Theory for Cats” has been reviewed twice – once in Amazon ( do I check the rankings ? Of course not – well maybe three or four times a day) and once in The Yorkshire Times – you can read it here


And wait…there’s another one coming through now …from my son…totally impartial, of course…


“My dad’s a hell of a poet” – best of all