Thursday, 12 October 2017

Pedantry 4

We must have [grammar rule] because in [unlikely scenario], if we ignore the rule the sentence might be ambiguous.

And we're all going to hell in a handcart because people are ignorant of the following: 

Christmas news bulletins sent to your friends are not round robins, they are circular letters.

"I and the staff would like to wish you a Happy New Year" – well why don’t you, ha ha?

Different to, different from, different than have different meanings and one of them is not “grammar”.

The programme should be spelled Desert Island Disks because “disk is original”.

Cooking instructions are a “receipt”, not a “recipe” – "recipe" is French.

Tube trains run through a tunnel, underground trains run through a covered trench.

The earth isn’t round, it’s spherical.

There's a distinction between complementary and complimentary.

Using “etc” is sloppy.

They’re herring gulls, not seagulls.

"Owing to" refers to a verb, "due to" refers to a noun. You can only say "thanks to" if you're thanking somebody. So what can we say? "On account of"? But that's American. So we may have to state directly that A caused B, and B happened as a result of A. But we can't do that, we're British!

Anticipate means “be prepared” not “expect”.

You’re wounded on a battlefield but injured in a car accident. (Times style guide)

It’s thank you, not thankyou. “Thankyou” is not a word. (See NGram – use of “thankyou” has risen sharply since 1972, while “thank you” has declined and then risen slightly since 1900.)

It's an historical, an halal, an herbivore.

It’s not “this year”, it’s “the current year”. (And as for this week, next week, brought forward, put back... etc.)

There’s a difference in meaning between ’til and till.

You must use Oxford commas either all the time, or never. (NGram shows a steep rise for "Oxford comma" from 1985. It depends on context. Sometimes you need a comma before and, and sometimes you don’t.)

These are brackets [ ]
These are parentheses ( ) 
These are braces { }
Homophobia means fear of the same, or fear of yourself. (It may not be the best term for intolerance of gay people, but it’s the one we’ve got.)

Enormity means “outside the norm” (and egregious means outside the flock). Its meaning changed to "nastiness", and then to “unusually large size”.

“Ironic” doesn't simply mean "paradoxical".

It’s “an aught” not “a nought”.

Till should be spelled 'til, as it’s short for until. (Same goes for 'phone and 'bus – telephone and omnibus.)

Though I admit I flinch when people say “etch” when they mean “engrave”.

Singular 'they' never went away; it has been in steady use for centuries: Wikipedia quotes Chaucer, Shakespeare, Chesterfield, Ruskin, Byron, Austen, Defoe, Thackeray and Shaw. Some 19th century grammarians promoted a gender-neutral 'he', but the former remained widespread. (AG)

Merriam-Webster, which calls the usage 'entirely standard', notes that "hopefully" has been used to start sentences since the early 1700s, and other sentence adverbs for a century longer still. It's interesting that, according to an American Heritage Dictionary usage panel, approval of 'hopefully' as a sentence adverb dropped from 44% in 1969 to 27% in 1988. Also, if you disapprove of it, do you also disapprove of 'accordingly', 'seriously', 'understandably', 'amazingly', 'frankly', and 'honestly'?  We all seem quite happy to use those in the same way. (AG)

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Neologisms 18

People come up with new figures of speech every week – fortunately. They're far more fun than dialect words for long-forgotten agricultural tools.

Centrepoint: mid-air concrete embroidery (Magdalene Logan‏ @MaariVekki) 

One of those days when you could sob a beck full of tears...
(@herdyshepherd1, May 23 2017)

A lot of what drew me to the novel and made it distinctive I felt was sanded off in adaption. (@jeannette_ng)

Just coined the word "sparsescapes", and I'll fight any editor that tries to cut it. (@mrdavidwhitley)

Blimey! When I lived in Glasgow, I wouldn't have known an avocado if I'd found one in my porridge, as we used to say, I think. (Alison Classe)

Casual, little Englander superior nostril flaring. (via FB)

Compared to the banquet Jeremy Corbyn is offering, that’s rather a dry biscuit. (Andrew Marr to Theresa May)

Every galah in the pet shop is now an energy expert. (

He had all the common sense of an igneous rock. (AJB)

I don’t want to throw myself a pity party here. (

If you don't want to cringe so hard you'll end up in another dimension, do not read Theresa May's interview with the Plymouth Herald. (Owen Jones)

This, from a self-identified right-libertarian, features more spectacular projection than the 3D IMAX. (John Band‏ @johnb78)

[Prime-ministerial hopeful] isn’t competent to run a bath. (@johnb78)

Rome didn't so much fall as slide around a bit. (David M. Perry‏)

There’s a warehouse full of myths and urban legends when it comes to Prince. (BBC Breakfast)

Visitors arriving by train are now greeted with a generic clone-town scene more like a suburban retail park than an illustrious seat of learning. (Olly Wainwright on Cambridge)

We’ve got a duvet of cloud. (BBC weatherman)

You don’t have to be Encyclopedia Brown to find out that they’re living a very different life than the one they project. (

Covent Garden street performer hell

edu-lingo (full of terms that refer to nothing)
lobotomised whelks (Michael Cashman on Sun journalists)
malignant dimwits (Simon Schama on Trump’s “kakistocracy”)
neoclassical mounds of bombastic gloop (Rowan Moore on neo-country houses)
Remainders for Remainers
rurban fringe, bastard countryside (edgelands)
stained-glass platitudes (JP on Rees-Mogg)

More here, and links to the rest.