I don’t like to criticise people in this column. Oh no, wait. I do. So I have no hesitation taking issue with a so-called “political journalist”.
At one of the week’s by-elections he informed us a politician had: “Arrived with his wife in toe”.
Really, seriously, did the writer think that was the spelling? I despair of the human race, it’s time to give chimpanzees a chance at running things (but I won’t discuss politics any further).
What else has annoyed me this week. A yes, hap hazard. I can only assume this is a reference to a chap named Hap. Amusingly, I once heard the word pronounced “haffazard”.
And there was a lot of talk about the weather. My favourite confused (but strangely almost true) metaphor was: “The rain is splitting the pavements”.
A perilous state is possible. But the more usual phrase is a parlous state. Though the words are, really, the same. Parlous is a contraction of perilous, both are rooted in the Latin periculosus, meaning “dangerous, unstable”.
I will let the user of that one off with a stern warning.
Stern! Another interesting word. In the 14th century it meant “bold, spirited, untamed” and was used to describe areas of wilderness.
But we were talking about misuses.
“The place is rammed” means, surely, this place has been hit, with force, by a vehicle. How did “rammed” come to mean a venue has reached capacity attendance? Why has it replaced perfectly adequate words like “crowded” and plain, common or garden, “full”?
Speaking of rammed, a “collision” has to be between two moving things. You can crash into a wall but you can’t have a collision with one – unless the wall was moving too. The clue is in “have a collision with”, which shows you doing something in concert “with” something else.
I saw someone claim their neighbour is in the process of setting up a neighbour hood watch scheme. There goes a Robin, there’s a little red riding . . .
Forfend, only seen nowadays in the mock outraged “Heaven forfend”, has to be against an unpleasant thing you wish to avert or prevent. You couldn’t, for example, forfend against free money.
Right, gird your loins, we are going to end in a rather risqué way. If you are of a delicate constitution, cover your eyes while reading this.
Fornication is only possible between an unmarried man and unmarried woman. If one or the other, or both, are married to other people it is adultery. If they are married to each other it is intercourse.
Careful how you go with that.
Word of the week
Letting off steam by cursing. EG: “Just about the only way left to express displeasure at badly used words is a vigorous bout of catarolysis.”
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at email@example.com