Grumpy old wordsmiths

Ill tell you what gets up my nose!! Yknow those letters you get from the debt collecting [i]firms[/i](I use the word firms in its ironic sense. As in criminal gangs), the ones that say "If y dont give us the money, well beat you up; shit on your doorstep and smash your windows, after arranging for twenty cowboy double glazing companies to turn up all at the same time?
Well, have you noticed, they are always signed,

Kind Regards

Anjelica Sopwith.

If thats sarcasm I think itsick?

Gor blimey Guv’nor. Y’gott yer 'postrophes just abaart right. Grammar school kids… y’can always tell!


This thread made me smile. Last night I was bemoaning yet another instance of those-who-should-know-better using the word “loathe” when they mean “loath.” A minor quibble - sort of - but I have given up on it’s/its, the variations of ‘there/their/and they’re’, and so on, and I need something to bemoan.

(Never mind that I was 35 and a published novelist before I discovered that discrete and discreet were separate words. For years, I thought discrete was a misspelling of discreet, and since I knew how it was spelled, I never bothered to look it up. :blush: )

Which leads me to a loud ‘huzzah!’ for the new Cambridge Grammar (circa 2002) which shows just how alive language can be. No one will be wrong forever. :laughing:


Jane gave a bonus to Bob and myself.
Bob bought books for everyone but myself.

Myself is used incorrectly so often, it’s only a matter of time before its misuse becomes acceptable. I can’t stand it!


Between you and I.

Drives ME round the bend.

I am annoyed by people who write that “the team will loose the game.”

You LOOSE the dogs of war.
Your sister can be LOOSE.

When I read that misspelling, I LOSE my patience.

I get snarly when people say or write “You need to…”, instead of “Would you please…”. First of all, it’s rude. Second, the gap between what I need and what somebody else wants from me is usually so wide that Evel Knievel could have earned a billion dollars for trying to jump it.

I keep thinking of fresh annoyances.

First, given the mix of Brits and Americans in the forum, I suppose we should keep pronunciation out of the mix. I’m sure your average Englishman does a good deal of cringing when she* sees what we’ve done to the language here in the States. Throw a Canadian and an Irishman (and a Scot, and whoever the hell else I forgot) into the mix, and it might just spark an all out grammar brawl. That said, when did the word integral become in-TEG-ral? Maybe it’s me. Sorry, that bugs the shit out of me.

On to my main point: the “Between you and I” and various “myself” constructions mentioned above are, far as I can tell, attempts at highfalutin speech by folks who don’t always (but should) know better. This phenomenon gets worse when a “new” 50-cent word enters the mass lexicon, and people repeat it exactly the way they heard it first until it becomes an annoying cliche.

A few years back, it was “plethora”, ALWAYS paired with “veritable.” If I hear one more linguistically impaired sportscaster tell me that a team has a “veritable plethora” of talent, I’m going to… y’know, complain loudly in a forum. Because those are once-strong words that now mean nothing.

“Oxymoron”… Jesus, who let that out of the bottle? I can happily die never hearing another co-worker** say: “Military Intelligence? That’s an oxymoron! (Guffaw!)” Yeah, dude. I know. Because EVERYONE KNOWS!

Alright, sorry. I’m done.

Oh, wait, question: How do people (I’m looking at you, sign on the pharmacy across the street!) get 'till out of the one-elled until? When you’re paying per letter for a sign, why would you create an abbreviation that has the same number of letters as the word you’re abbreviating (unless apostrophes are free, but still! There’s only one L!).

Which brings up another signage peeve: injudicious quotation marks. In my mind, when a sign says WE HAVE “THE BEST” RIBS IN THE CITY, that means that that have shitty ribs and are being sarcastic, right? FEATURING “GREAT SERVICE” FOR ALL OUR CUSTOMERS. Killin’ me.


*See what I did there? I’m proud.

**Truth is, I’m a freelance writer and thus have no co-workers, but I used to, and they said it a lot.

Till until?

From the website of language maven, Michael Quinion: The common belief is that till is a shortened form of until, but the truth of the matter is that till is by far the older word, being recorded from about the year 800, while it took another 400 years for until to appear in the language (it’s a compound of till with the archaic Old Norse und, as far as, which also survives in the archaic unto). The word ’til, has been created within the past century by people who believe that till is an abbreviation of until.

Now as to those quotation marks… I was once working with a business executive who wanted to write a letter to his staff about how important it was to pay “rigorous” attention to such and such. I told him to lose the quotation marks, but he insisted, saying he wanted to emphasize the word. I asked him if he would ever consider registering at a hotel as Mr. Smith and “wife”. He got the point and dropped the quotes.

All the best,


Complement and compliment?



Kicking off what I thought would be a modest thread has turned into a nuclear explosion.

Well done, all, fun reading.

Here’s my latest gripe. Two that I actually loathe:

“meet with”

You don’t “meet with” anyone. You just “meet” them. American slang.

And second. This one really hacks me off. PRE-ORDER! PRE ORDER the latest game/console/whatever.

The concept of pre-ordering has become socially acceptable, but it means sod all. If you simply Order something, you’re saying I want you to give me that thing when it arrives in the future. If you PRE-ORDER, what are you doing? Prizes for anyone who can explain the concept.

I find this one an odd thing to have a gripe about - it provides a reasonably clear distinction for people ordering something:

Usually, if you “order” something, you expect them to already have it and be able to ship within days.

By using “pre-order” as a distinctive term, it becomes clear that you will get it when it is available, but it may not be available for some time.

In that case I find it a fairly natural term and easily understandable, that is different enough in understood meaning to a regular “order” that I think the separate term is justified.


I agree, which is why I try to avoid harping on variations in spelling.

That would be a “pre-release” or “pre-distribution” order. To me “pre-order” is shopping (in the case of a verb) or an empty cart (in the case of noun). I realize that I am what is considered “freakishly weird” by most folks.

My largest peeve that has not be mentioned yet is the use a proper nouns for verbs. I do not
“Google” things, I “search for things on Google”
“Xerox” documents, I “make copies with the Xerox machine”
“Jaysen” things, vic-K “effs them up like Jaysen”

I am not sure if it is ignorance, stupidity or laziness that causes apparently intelligent people to do this. The worst part about this insidious demon of noun mangling is that if you don’t do it you are accused of being WRONG.

Please tell me I am not alone in detesting this misuse of the proper noun. On second thought don’t tell me. I am not sure being alone in the company of vic-K in my little box of psychosis is heathy.

Pre-order, in my view, is only a distinctive term insofar at it was coined by marketeers. To use your own argument, I don’t assume something is in stock when I order it. Or rather, if I order something, I may get a message telling me “currently not in stock, but will be ship when it is”. Pre-order implies that you are doing something before you order. Not that it will be shipped when it arrives. The correct phrase for that would be to “reserve” something. As in please “reserve me a copy of the latest dictionary which is due in three months”.

I’ve had this same argument with my brother, Matt. He’s in IT business, so they falsely use Pre-Order all the time, believing it’s correct.

Boy, am I grumpy today!

I’m grumpy because I wrote a longish entry about being an RP speaker who loves Edinburgh pronunciation and sometimes wishes he had it, and about the disease of Greengrocer’s apostrophe … and then the server went bad when I tried to submit it. I thought it had gone but it was lost …

Here in Xiamen University I pose as almost aggressively British, because someone has to get it into the heads of the people here that North America is not the only thing that exists in the west. But I too loathe “meet with” and various other Americanisms. I do recognise that my American colleagues have the right to object equally strongly to any of my usages. And I merely point out US vs UK spellings. “Chinglish” is much more of a problem!


Hear, hear. You’ve touched on the more objectionable issue of cultural imperialism. I think what I object to more is that our language is being swamped by Americanisms. But I have no issue with people in the USA finding our terms ludicrous. But then, they don’t have to take them on board. I’ve yet to see Anglo Saxon oddities being adopted in the USA. Apart, maybe from Dick Van Dyke and Johnny Depp doing their “wotcher, guv’nor” accents.

For me, it’s the same issue as film distributers in the USA insisting on subtitles on Scottish films. We have to listen to the most extreme, difficult accents (sans subtitles) on American films, so why should our exports be made any easier for them?

Because we “own” the studios.

While I agree completely you have to keep in mind that we are selfish, spoilt, rebellious whiners with no self control or ability to compromise. As such expect nothing less then the behavior that would be associated with a child of matching description.

Before the evisceration begins remember that scriv is not the best representation of the average American, but a representation of some of the best Americans (excluding me :blush:). My impression of my fellow US scrivs is that they represent the few remaining intelligent beings who refuse to allow Ms. Spears to dominate their thinking in this country. While I am an American who values the citizenship that I have, I am simultaneously embarrassed by the majority of my fellow citizens.

Done. I think.

No evisceration from me … I am often grievously embarrassed by the behaviour of my fellow citizens, especially abroad … and I would agree that high among the exceptions are fellow scrivs.

Your characterisation of your fellow countrymen and women does ring a bell, however, as many of my North American colleagues here – that includes Canadians – tend to take any glitch in the system as something that has been set up deliberately to make things difficult for them personally.

Many years ago, I heard a very amusing broadcast by an American who was in Britain studying Victorian history. Someone advised him that if he wanted to see Victorianism in action, he should go to India to study the election that was due shortly. He did so, and, while in Bombay, he asked an elderly man what he thought of Mrs Gandhi. The answer he got was, “Sir, she is a lady of many loopholes.”

One might say in imitation of him, “Sir, China is a country of many glitches.” But it seems every one is there as a personal irritant for many of my North American colleagues.



Are we done with international relations and cultural imperialism now? Because we must discuss the Mother Of All Outrages:

Alanis Morissette doesn’t know what the word “ironic” means, but she’s happy to sing about it anyway.

Which would have been fine, had the song disappeared into the cultural abyss some 10+ years ago. But NO! The song is now a soft rock “classic”, and it makes my brain cramp.

Rain on your wedding day? Well, that sucks, but it’s not ironic. A free ride when you’ve already paid? To the extent that this line even makes sense, again, not ironic. The good advice that you just didn’t take? Gaaa! I could go on an on (and often do). My wife says I should let it go, but how can I? That song is a monument to idiocy! It is a pyramid of dumb. Was there NO ONE in the production of “Ironic” that stopped her and said, “Y’know, Alanis… ironic doesn’t mean ‘unfortunate’.”

(P.S. As my wife also likes to point out, as I turn purple with rage, that recoding an entire song about irony without a single example of irony is, in itself, ironic. We don’t speak for an hour after she says that.)

(P.P.S. Full disclosure: when the guy in the song who is afraid to fly finds himself – on his first flight – in a crashing plane (not ironic!), he mutters “Well, isn’t this nice.” Which is the ONE example of irony in the song, and for some reason makes me hate it more.)