Grumpy old wordsmiths

I’ like to see a TV show called Grumpy Old Wordsmiths, so we could moan about abuse of language. Lynne Truss would be on it, of course. I’d like to kick off with words and phrases I would like to see banned from forums like this one. Or we could have this as a thread in itself.

Top of the list: IMHO. It took me a while to discover it means In My Humble Opinion.

I dislike it for two reasons:

One: it’s an abbreviation, whose meaning only the initiated know.

Second: it makes the author sound like Uriah Heep. “I’m terribly sorry to offer my opinion, guv. I’m not worthy to express any sort of view. But here you are anyhow.”

Any other grumpy old (or young) wordsmiths care to pitch in?

A first-response list, most of them, I think, Americanisms:

“fun” used as an adjective;
“like” used as an all-purpose interjection;
“said” NOT used, in two separate situations –
– in the quick-speak of the young, who tend toward “and he’s like so I’m like” when they mean “he said and I answered”
– in passages of dialogue from writers who try to impress me with “she stated” and “he averred” and so on.


Grammar abuse irks me as much as the next cranky old writer, but Internet acronyms are a misguided whipping boy, IMHO :wink:

They evolved out of the need to make one’s intentions and inflection clear back in the days when [a] the Net was a pure-text medium, and [b] modem speeds were only slightly faster than walking across the Atlantic, so conservation of characters and typing time was important. I agree they’re overused nowadays, but the original context for them excuses their use, I think. Even nowadays, and here on this forum, how many times has someone’s intent or mood been misinterpreted because of the limitations of conversational text?

$0.02, TTYL…

I wish I was grumpy enough to join in this thread :cry:

Ah well


Gotten. What is that? Please don’t tell me it’s the past participle of get; that plinth is already occupied by got. Gotton! What a particularly ugly expansion. Just typing it feels like handling faecal matter without wearing gloves. It makes me cringe. :angry:

Not so sure about “gotten” - on this side of the pond, have we really gotten rid of it (“ill-gotten”, anyone)? And it also introduces a possibly useful distinction:

Anyway, blame our ancestors who used it freely and conveyed it Stateside - probably the Pilgrim Fathers. :wink:

One of my particular sources of resentment is “hopefully” used in lieu of “I hope”. But, dolefully, I think the battle there is lost.

Sorry, but got does double duty as the simple past and past participle. It’s overworked, and the language has gotten it some help.


On the net, overuse of :smiley: :open_mouth: :unamused: :cry: :laughing: :wink: :smiling_imp: :imp: etc

Pip pip!

Okay, this DRIVES ME NUTS: in SE London, no one uses the word “to”.

“Can I go toilet, Mr B.?”
“I’m going club, Mr B.”

Go toilet? GO TOILET? Even my three year-old goes TO THE toilet, for crap’s sake. It’s not just the kids, everyone around here does it. Grr. Every day I have conversations like this:

“Can I go toilet?”
“Can I go toilet please?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“What about it?”
“Can I go toilet, please, Mr. B.”
“I don’t understand you.”
“Can I go toilet?”
“Can you go toilet? I don’t know this verb, ‘toilet’.”
Rest of class: “Can you go TO THE toilet!!!” (All of whom say exactly the same bloody thing when they come to ask. Besides which the answer is “no” anyway. Go at bloody playtime.)

Oh, and there’s a pub in Sydenham called The Two Halve’s (sic).

And while I’m on the subject: “innit” and “isn’t it”. As in: “I had a great day, innit?” Or: “They were really doing my head in, isn’t it.”

Hmm, I think I need to get out of London…


Urrgh… that feels as though I’m shaving with a bastard file. The language has gotton it some help? Do you really think so Katherine? Oh dear.

:frowning: (Singular - with due deference to Gareth’s sensibilities)


Thanks Vic. All very interesting, but it still jars. Ignore me, it’s just one of my pet hates.


The rampant misuse of apostrophe-s drives me insane. I saw this the other day: “We offer a wide variety of international coffee’s.” Not a hand-written sign — printed! Someone spent money to be this dumb.

My other complaint is somewhat obscure, but comes up surprisingly often:

A few years (not year’s!) back, there was a movie about flight attendants starring Gwyneth Paltrow. In the ads for the film, a character played by Mike Myers said, “She put the wrong em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-LA-ble.” NO! What’s that first “wrong” doing there? Stop! Practically no one saw this movie, but that annoying construction of an old joke persists.

Wow, I’m grumpy this morning. Alright, one more:

“This is between John and I.” No, it’s not.

John and me, of course.

Sean, a man after my own heart. Although my grump is more about the written word than the spoken one. No one speaks in received English, thank God. I’m quite happy, for example, if someone from the Midlands says “I was stood” instead of “I stood”, or Scots like me mangling speech all over the shop. Regional accents and speech patters are brilliant. I’ve always wanted to be a Geordie, for example…

But on the subject of apostrophes, they used to be more commonly abused on market stalls, small shops and the like, but now I see it in big budget productions, like high street store websites, film posters, everywhere. Absolutely shocking.

Whats all this palaver about apostrophe’s?

My personal favorite is the term ‘unthaw.’

“Go get the roast out of the freezer and unthaw it,” they say. Arrrgh! I don’t care if it’s in the dictionary, it sounds ridiculous!

Spotted a good double example of the Greengrocer’s Apostrophe the other day, in Greenwich I think. “Apple’s and Pear’s”. Rendered in gold leaf too.

Does that translate to Stair’s then Hugh?


It may be in dictionaries, but it’s illogical. Thaw means to melt. Unthaw should therefore mean to freeze. Or refreeze something that was thawed.

Blimey, Judders old fruit, too true. You’re brown bread right. I must’ve bin Brahms 'n Liszt, yeah. Etc etc etc…