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?