Tag Archives: English Language

The Last Word: Tales from the Tip of the Mother Tongue

15 Apr

If you love the bendy, wriggly, twisty entity that is the English language, then “The Last Word: Tales from the Tip of the Mother Tongue” is a must read for you.

The book started life as a newspaper column and Ben Macintyre writes enthusiastically about all facets of the English language and its usages.

It’s a real gem for anyone who reviews books, be it professionally, or on Good Reads, Amazon, or via blogs. Ben has a wonderful tongue-in-cheek article on the meaning of various phrases used in reviews. It is laugh out loud funny.

There is also an interesting article on book blurbs and how they come about. I won’t spoil it, but I will say I was shocked at what I learned, and I will be looking at the blurbs on books with a fairly jaundiced eye in the future.

Ben Macintyre also turns his attention on the various dialects, pidgins and creoles of English, giving anyone who has not experienced this area of the language a new and interesting language experience.

I recommend “The Last Word: Tales from the Tip of the Mother Tongue” to anyone who reviews books, loves books, and, like myself, has an ongoing love affair with the English language.

Does My Brain Look Big In This?

21 Jul

I am really rather worried about the state of news and current affairs programs here in Australia.  Not so much the content, as the delivery.  These people are in the business of delivering news in a clear concise manner.  On Saturday night, this just didn’t happen.

An item on one news broadcast about a horse bolting from the mounting yard at Flemington Racecourse here in Melbourne had me in hysterics.  The news reader blithely informed the viewers that the horse “tossed off” the jockey.  Really?  There was no word on the jockey’s condition, but I’m betting he had a smile on his face!  I’d loved to be a fly on the wall at the Steward’s Enquiry for THAT one.

For my American readers who may be a little confused, the expression “tossing off” has been a euphemism for masturbation for at least sixty years.  No excuse for the news copy writer getting it so badly wrong.  Though I can almost forgive him for the laugh he gave me.

I was then informed in an ad break that a current affairs program airing the next day would have an item on how “technology is making us mentally fat”.  Mentally fat?  That has got to be about the most ludicrous manipulation of the English language I have seen in ages.  Not to mention the mental image I had of peering into the mirror muttering “Does my brain look big in this?”

Incidentally, it is apparently spending too long on the internet that is making us mentally fat.  That makes reading my blog the internet equivalent of eating a chocolate bar under the bed covers.  A guilty pleasure. 

The final indignity heaped upon my mother tongue came during a sports news broadcast.  I was informed that a football team “leaded by 9 points”.  Leaded? Leaded? LEADED????  Words failed me at that point and I was gripped with a desire to bang my had against a wall repeatedly.

That is the level of English that you expect from a three year old.  Not from a copy writer on a news broadcast.  Unless it was Bring Your Child To Work Day at the studio, which would be odd for a Saturday anyway.

Am I being a grumpy pedant for actually wanting the news to be delivered in understandable English?  I don’t actually want to have to sit and try and work out what the bloody hell the news reader is on about.  Or what the copy writer is on!

As they used to say in an American TV show…”Just the facts ma’am.”  Preferably delivered in something that resembles good English.

Not too much to ask, is it?

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