Search This Blog

Friday, 9 March 2012

Abusive language? Abuse OF language!

I have just made a momentous discovery, one I want to share with you. I’ve often wondered what the plural was of Grand Prix (no, I lie. I’ve never wondered what the plural was). One Grand Prix but two ... ? I’ve just found out. It’s Grands Prix. A bit like two Governors-General, three courts-martial, four secretaries-general (and a partridge in a pear tree).

Isn’t the English language wonderful? But there are some who, I think, abuse the language most dreadfully. I hope there’s a special place in hell for those who say “the amount of people” instead of “the number of people”. Or “less people” rather than “fewer people”. There are any number of culprits, for example, media people and a scattering of academics who should know better.

I’m all for innovation. English as a language is vibrant, a living thing. Why not add words like “holler” and “creek” as in “up the ...” How about “dag” which is a gloriously indigenous New Zealand word meaning that bit of dry dung hanging from a sheep’s backside. A great word to use for some of the scumbags, Honest Joe car salesmen, News of the World journalists, tyrants and dictators of the world (and, of course, politicians!).

The Lake Superior State University in Michigan, USA, publishes an annual list of words (and phrases) that they consider should be banished from our vocabulary due to “misuse, overuse and general uselessness”. Their list includes words like ‘amazing’, ‘live life to the fullest’ (‘full’ doesn’t have degrees of comparison. Full is full, baby), ‘transparency’ (especially in government. Don’t you lot try to bluff us) and ‘app’ (whatever that is). My own list would include ‘at this point in time’, ‘gobsmacked’, ‘gutted’ and ‘struggling to come to terms with’. What useless words and phrases would you have on your list?

As for that special place in hell for those who abuse the language? This “Hellfire” Granny will be there stoking the fires and turning over on the satanic spit all those who abuse the English language.

Jenny Hellfire Harrison


  1. Some fair points there, although I think app might be too firmly entrenched to lose. Besides, it's more efficient than 'application' when describing how your shiny new smart-phone can tell you the weather in Uzbekistan. (Yes, it has an app for that.) My pet hate is 'very unique' - I can feel my English teacher rolling in her grave at the very thought of it!

  2. "Very unique"? Oh Lordy! That's a fine example of tautology - another grave sin in the eyes of English language lovers like me. gives a list of tautological phrases, my favorite being: 'In my opinion, I think that ...' Or what about: 'joint cooperation' or 'to reiterate again'.

  3. Interesting thing language. So many nuances, so many different meanings. I, too, am a 'foreigner' insofar as I wasn't born here but came here as a 12 year old. I had to learn the new names for common things like my mac and wellies. My parents had to work out what 'Bring a Plate' meant and what a 'shout' was. There are a myriad of New Zealand sayings that are different to anywhere else in the world (except maybe Aussie and even then there are minor differences). Take 'dag' for example. Dirty lumps of dried dung hanging from a sheep's backside shouldn't infer anything remotely complimentary as Jenny indicated, but somehow the NZ humour managed to suggest that if someone was 'a bit of a dag' then they were funny, with a wry sense of humour and masters of the understatement. And 'rattle your dags' became to mean hurry up. Don't you just love it?