What’s Wrong With the English Language?

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.

Further Adventures In Language

Hello. You still here? Amazing.

Anyway, many, many moons ago when the world was young and fresh and full of surprises – for me, anyway – I discovered American English. Or, rather, I was dunked in it, like a reluctant digestive into a large cup of cold sick, immersed by virtue of where I worked. I discovered it was at times lazy (aluminium, chaps, aluminium), misunderstood and misused (no, you will not be with me momentarily, neither have you misunderestimated my capacity for rage and revenge) and sometimes simply made up on the spot. I know that powerpoint is a (fairly) new thing, but we could to do better than ‘bulletize’ when trying to convey the act of translating an idea or theme into or on to a powerpoint slide. After all, as a valued commentator pointed out to me, bulletise is what US infantry do to the Taliban. (Is that a little risque?)

So, it’s been a while, and – having escaped the clutches of the Americans – the horror of daily acquaintaince with what can only be described as the English Language Chainsaw Massacre was starting to fade. The dreams had almost stopped, I’d been weaned off the sedatives and my current boss’ inadvertent use of the not-word ‘foundationed’ in a live media interview resulted in little more than goosepimples and a slight dimming of my peripheral vision.

It was all getting better. Until today. Now, before I go and unveil this latest verbal atrocity which – yes – comes wrapped in the Stars ‘n’ Stripes with a billet doux from Uncle Sam – may I say that there is something even more insidious at work here. Which is that people I would consider perfectly sane, normal people – the sort of people that one might almost have a drink with (if they were paying) – seem to be perpetuating this nonsense.

You all know the rules. You see a twisted or maimed word, phrase or construct and you put it out of its misery. You do not pass it on. You do not ‘like’ it. (Is is me or is the word ‘like’ too close to ‘lick’ for comfort? It simply backs up my deep-seated belief that the vast majority of people who are ‘liking’ things on the old social media are also the sort of people you find licking shop windows and moaning.) Anyway, this latest linguistic travesty came to my attention because people have been passing it on. Had they not, everything would be alright.

And here it is. I have removed the company name to spare its blushes. And to avoid the blog coming up in searches.

“Throughout November, employees in 30 offices spanning 23 countries will come together to support a variety of projects to help those in need and improve our local communities through volunteerism.”

Volunteerism. What – in the name of all that’s holy – is wrong with the perfectly acceptable word ‘volunteering’? I mean, it’s not like there was a gap in the dictionary where they word they wanted to use wasn’t, is it? There was a word, for God’s sake – a good one, one that’s been used before to great effect – but no, far better to make one up. And while you’re at it, why not make one up that sounds like a personality disorder? Excellent. Well done, you.

I’m just going to sit here quietly until the darkness goes away.

Apostrophic Errors

Morning all – this is a post for me, so apologies in advance – and it’s with regard to one of my pet hates (and, I am aware, a pet hate of many of yours, dear internet-dwelling word herders) – the misplaced apostrophe.

I am not going into this here, as you’ll know what I’m talking about and if you don’t, then it’s likely that you make apostrophic errors and, if I were you, I’d keep your head down, do da clickety onna linky and NEVER MAKE THESE MISTAKES AGAIN.

(In actual fact, I like this whole blog – Boggleton Drive – and so should you, dearest Blog Trotters. This stuff is important.)

(Even if the apostrophe post has a split infinitive in it. Mind, I was told recently that split infinitives don’t matter any more, so who am I etc etc etc.)