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 ?

or

“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

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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

Wtng 4Gdt

th

 

Here WR
R we ?
tree,over there like he said.
YR we txting?
Evry 1 txts
Y?
its what they do.
but im standing next 2U
so UR
is he late?
R we early?

were we here yesterday?
dont!
or the day B4?
isnt 2day enuff 4U ?

Wait!
i am waiting.
Got an email – from him !
Me2!

“God is experiencing high volumes of traffic at the moment. Your message is really important to him. Please try later.”

You know what ? English just got lazier.

Like an amateur virologist, I’m always on the lookout for little bugs of language which infect the public domain. Do you remember upspeak ? That irritating, childish way of putting a question mark at the end of each sentence ? Thank goodness,it’s largely died out ? I’m glad you don’t often hear it anymore ?

(Get a grip man! Get a grip !)

I’ve found a couple of new bugs, swilling around at the bottom of my test tube. You know what ? The first one is “You know what ?” It’s a world weary way of putting someone in their place. It prefaces a statement of the bleeding obvious that everyone with half a brain should understand. It’s sarcastic, pompous …and proliferating by the minute.

I can excuse Mark Kermode, the film critic, for using it. He does cagey, ironic, like no-one else. But I was shocked to hear John Humphries use it on the Today programme the other day. Big Humph, Guardian of the English Language Flame and Scourge of Scurvy Politicians. Tsk..tsk.

I like that.Tsk tsk…but I digress

Resilient. Good word. Strong.Real world. Think steel sheet. Think Nelson’s flagship, battered by French cannon balls, but bouncing back. You don’t think car parking regulations, employment contracts,confidentiality agreements. They all have ” inbuilt resilience.” I am so re-assured.

“And what about “robust” ? Every time there is a disaster, a debacle, a fracas or just an administrative cockup, there’s some poor sap in front of the news cameras, and they always say the same thing ” We now have robust procedures in place to ensure that this never happens again” No ! Really ? That’s ok then.

There is a new bug on the block. I’ve only heard it a couple of times, but I suspect it could become an epidemic.

” Here’s the thing”

I can’t work out what it means. What thing ? Where is it ? Is it a big thing ? Can I see it ? It’s telling you that something is there…and I’ll let you know what it is in a minute. If you say ” I’m going to talk to you today about house bricks” and then reach under the lectern , take out a brick and hold it up, THEN you can say ” Here’s the thing.” But not before.

I note that Ed Millipede is an early adopter, so it’s bound to be a success.

Finally “issues” or rather ” Ishooz.” OK it’s been a portmanteau word for years, but I came across a wonderful useage yesterday, on the website of ” Rialto”- a highbrow magazine. I leave you with this gem:

” We have had an issue with a few of our magazines.”

The Panzerschredder

Shredders ! Doncha love ‘em ! I bought a new one this morning because my last one had finally given up the ghost. It was a mean-spirited, wimpy thing made out of thin plastic that did nothing but make a self-pitying whine and whinge if I asked it shred anything more sturdy than a couple of sheets of fine tissue paper.

So I’ve got this new one. It’s bigger, black and somehow more…manly.

Before I set it up, I happened to glance at the instructions on the box- in four languages-English, German, French, and something full of vowels which I will call Dutch. It’s fascinating how national differences spring out from the tiniest pieces of text.

The English description is short, straightforward and to the point:

“6 sheet paper cross cut shredder”

Well, you can’t argue with that. The German description was much more allusive:

“ Sechs Blatt CrosscutAktentvernichter”

Six pages is obvious, as is the borrowed “ Cross cut” – but Aktenvernichter ! Do you know what it means ? Have you any idea ? It means “Destroyer” – this thing will destroy your Acts ! In fact it’s worse than that- “vernichten” means to annihilate, to reduce to nothing !
I’m looking at the black box under my desk with new respect. Is it some kind of Panzerschredder ? Have I just brought Death The Destroyer Of Worlds back from Staples Stationery Store ?

The French have a more flamboyant view:

“6 feuilles destructeur de documents a coupe croisse”

That’s got real style, don’t you think ? “ feuilles” for a start- which means “leaves” and not “pages”.” And the destructeur de documents is obviously a character from the “ The three Musketeers”- probably one of Richelieu’s bad boys.

“ Aha Monsieur, I, the Destroyer of Documents, will shred your paltry leaves with my cross cut Wiff ! Waff ! “

But I really like the Dutch version:

“6 vel papierverschnipperer”

This is a character from Hans Christan Andersen, isn’t it ? The thin,sharp eyed Papierverschnipperer- a kind of Dutch Edward Scissor Hands- who snips every bit of papier- 6 vels at a time. He would make a good excuse for Dutch schoolchildren, wouldn’t he ? “ I’m sorry, Meinheer, but the Papierverschnipperer cut up my homework !”

I’m looking at it now. It’s waiting, maw open wide, motor throbbing…it could have my arm off…don’t worry, I’ll be careful …I’ll….agh !”