Things I Hate

I’ve just said au revoir to an old friend, Daniel, who came to stay for the week­end. Before he left, we had a chat about things we hate in rela­tion to lan­guage. I thought it might be fun to put these on my blog.

Linguistic thingies that I hate:

(5) Top five lists

Cynical attempts to cre­ate traffic via book­mark­ing sites like Digg.

(4) People who think that the let­ter H is pro­nounced ‘haitch’

Indeed it is not. It is ‘aitch’. It has a cock­ney feel, if you will, and if you say ‘haitch’ in my pres­ence I will bludgeon you with the object I find nearest to hand.

(3) Misconstruing verbs that end with ‘-ize’

When you bru­tal­ize a per­son, you are mak­ing them bru­tal. “The police bru­tal­ized the rioters” means that the actions of the police made rioters bru­tal. You don’t have to act bru­tally towards someone in order to bru­tal­ize them.

(2) People who write ‘invari­ably, but not always’.

Should be made to French kiss a dog.

(1.5) People who don’t dis­tin­guish between ‘that’ and ‘which’ in their rel­at­ive clauses.

I’ve giv­en up try­ing to explain this, but I hate to see it.

(1) People who go, ‘Urgh!’ and look dis­gus­ted when you use a phrase or term that think is American in ori­gin.

This applies, as far as I can tell, only to British people who feel that their lan­guage needs pro­tec­tion from the bar­bar­ic Americans. Well, for start, there’s plenty of good stuff in American English. And British English doesn’t need pro­tect­ing. The rumours of its death have been greatly exag­ger­ated down the cen­tur­ies by mup­pet after mup­pet. It ain’t pure, either, hav­ing done the lin­guist­ic equi­val­ent of sleep­ing around with every oth­er lan­guage that so much as bats an eye­lid in its dir­ec­tion. Furthermore, ‘closet’, ‘fall’ (for autumn) and many oth­er phrases you care to men­tion are not at all American but decidedly British and in com­mon use at vari­ous points in the his­tory of our nation. Making verbs from nouns, using adject­ives in place of adverbs — irrit­at­ing, yes, but not American in ori­gin, and part of the steady, ongo­ing trans­form­a­tion of English.

There! I’ve made my grumps pub­lic, as I prom­ised Daniel.

Any oth­er lin­guist­ic thingies that get on your nerves?

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

4 thoughts on “Things I Hate”

  1. As I think we dis­cussed, I am some­times guilty of your num­ber one lis­ted peeve, so I’m sorry if it upsets you but in future I will con­tin­ue to get irrit­ated by things like:

    People using the word “envi­sion” when they mean “envis­age” (I genu­inely loathe the pseudo-word “envi­sion”), using “trans­port­a­tion” when they mean “trans­port”, using the word “burg­lar­ized” when they mean “burgled” etc etc etc…

  2. Of course, pro­tect­ive feel­ings about one’s pre­ferred fla­vour of English cut both ways. I recall that one of the com­plaints of Andrew Schlafly, who set up the pre­pos­ter­ous Conservapedia in reac­tion to Wikipedia’s alleged left­ist bias, was that Wikipedia allowed British English spellings. This, appar­ently, is evid­ence of Godless pinko anti-Americanism.

  3. People what ero­neously use ‘lit­er­ally’ for dra­mat­ic effect.
    As in, ‘You’ve just missed her, she left lit­er­ally a second ago’. (How come I missed her, then?)
    Or, ‘I was lit­er­ally creased up with laughter’. (Ouch!)
    And my favour­ite from some well-mean­ing com­ment­at­or recently: ‘They lit­er­ally have one foot in the semis now.’ (!)

  4. Daniel: Yes. I’m not too sure about burg­lar­ised — at least to the extent of gen­er­at­ing a real rage about it. But I’m sure that’ll come.

    Tim: Pah! These new worlders. They need to put some extraneous ‘u’s back in their words. That’ll sort ‘em out.

    Tom: Yes, ‘lit­er­ally’ is prob­lem. ‘Practically’ is anoth­er odd one.

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