Every week I could write a column just listing the spelling, word usage, and punctuation mistakes I see. Though I fear you’d quickly tire of such a thing.
Every week I could point out that when I was a young sub-editor the mistakes that make it into print nowadays would have earned a vigorous scourging. When an incorrectly-spelled word is (figuratively) branded on to your brain with a white-hot iron you tend to remember how to spell it thereafter.
Perhaps it isn’t acceptable in the modern workplace to tell a youngster he is an idiot with the language skills of a donkey and will be “out the blooming door with a blooming boot up the arse” if he commits such a heinous crime again. I use quotation marks because that is almost a direct quote, with just the adjectives “blooming” substituted because the minister’s wife might read this.
This week I saw a sign in which the name “James” had an apostrophe between the E and S. I saw Aberdeen FC referenced as “The Don’s”. I heard a TV reporter say “cheek and jowl” instead of cheek by jowl.
And so here I go. I can’t resist. Another list of annoyances, another rant.
The phrase is eke out, not eek out. A decisive happening is a pivotal moment, not a pinnacle moment. Wild and uncontrolled is feral, not ferile: which isn’t even a word. It is scared to death, not deaf. An anomaly isn’t the same as a mystery. Footballers get gilt-edged chances, not guilt-edged.
Profit and prophet are different. Liable and libel are different. Favoured and favourable are different. An uncontrollable person is a loose cannon, not a lose cannon. Though I’d quite like to see what a lose cannon looks like!
Head in the sand is pretending there isn’t a problem, not just failing to deal with a problem. Dumbing down isn’t refusing people the opportunity to speak, for goodness’ sake!
Lastly, and most annoyingly, I hear the misuse of “literally” on a daily basis.
I don’t give a hoot if dictionaries list it as an intensifier. Those dictionaries are wrong. Literally means something actually, really happened. A politician is not “literally playing with fire” when introducing unpopular measures. Happy people aren’t “literally walking on air”. A dependable centre-half is not “literally a rock”.
Please, English-speaking world, I beg you. Literally stop.
Word of the week
Infestation with lice. EG: “I curse those who misuse ‘literally’ to literally suffer pediculosis for their sins.”
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at email@example.com