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?

Published by Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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  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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