What is wrong with the English language (with its 1 million, nineteen thousand, seven hundred and twenty-nine point six words – yes, point six – which I presume is explained using the same reasoning that allows for ‘dog’ being two words – noun and verb – where the point six of a word is one of those ones that irritating people – yes, that’s you, Mother – use to win at Scrabble. Words like ‘pfft’ and ‘xkp’. Which are not worthy of being words. Or, the thought strikes me, is it that there are two words which are one point three of a word each, which, for no sane reason, I can imagine as words like ‘sha’n’t’ which, with two apostrophes and, to my mind, although I’m not sure whether it’s accepted wisdom or not, two glottal stops, is definitely more than one word, although I’d stop short of saying it’s a word and a half)?
I mean, there has to be something wrong with it, or people wouldn’t insist on making words up to suit their own ends, or to fill a void which was probably perfectly fillable by an already extant word, but they were just to lazy to think about it for a moment or – heaven forfend – access t’wonder of t’modern age, t’internet and have a quick noodle for the right word, or simply to escape the dark lexicographical silence in their heads. Words like ‘volunteerism’, ‘bulletise’, ‘monetise’, ‘cremains’, ‘alphabetise’, ‘corporatastical’ and ‘stresscalation’. (OK, the last two are genuinely made up – not by me, I may add – and are free for you to use in whatever way you wish.) (I shall be using them in discussion with my CEO as soon as the opportunity arises.)
But still they persist, these makers of words, these egotistical improvers of that which (I would argue) does not need their improvement (as it is already growing at 14.7 words a day, proper words, like ‘Web 2.0’ – which was word number one million – yes, alright, I know it’s not a proper word *sigh*) and the latest obscenity to grab my attention as it appears to be spreading like sick outside a Walkabout on a Saturday night is ‘obligate’.
No, no and thrice no. It’s oblige. No-one is obligated to do nothing, never. One may, however, end up being obliged to do something. Anyway, I got all quite cross about this and approached t’internet (with the requisite caution) and pushed a few searchy buttons and found this – old, but interesting – discussion on painintheenglish.com. D’you know, it stopped me for a moment. Because there’s an argument that ‘obligated’ (I suffered when I typed that, I should point out) is a legal term, differentiated from obliged, with a far stronger meaning.
But I soon recovered. Even if it is (and I’ve no proof that it actually IS, having not consulted my legal advisor, Habeas Corpus of Corpus, Facit and Fides) there is no excuse for using it outside of the legal arena. I do not refer to myself as the party of the first part (hardly ever, anyway), far preferring me, you or him, nor do I go around making agreements in principle and no more do I talk about the arbitrariness of something or other.
It’s either arbitrary, or it’s not. And one should be obliged to remember that.