Tuesday, October 05, 2010


The English language is suffering from a real mangling nowadays. This saddens and worries me.

Stupid phrases, meaningless responses and a general sloppiness in many sectors are all combining to muck it all up.

A big ask – I ask you? Isn’t that just one of the most horrible and totally wrong utterances imaginable? It’s a crime against the language, that’s what I think. I loathe it. It’s horrible and ugly and doesn’t mean anything.

The last time I consulted a dictionary, I noticed that “ask” is a verb and definitely not a noun. You ask someone a question, you ask for information. A verb – easy to understand, you would think.

Hard on its heels to make me cringe is the equally execrable term – big up to so-and-so. What? Up is an adverb, has been since I was a lad and will be when I no longer have the energy to rant.

It’s another crime and, no, I don’t want to pop a chill pill (hideous) as I move seamlessly on to more expressions that make me shudder or worse.

I confess – not “fess up” – to being a pedant when it comes to language and grammar but I reckon it’s easy for people who use these expressions to sort themselves out.

Hold tight.

A raft of ideas – I hate this, especially when the “raft” then has its ideas “rolled out.” Awful, isn’t it?

“Absolutely” could be my reply but that word is used sickeningly often today. Big culprits are at-the-scene TV reporters when linking to studio-based presenters who have a asked question such as: “I imagine the atmosphere is tense there with 10 dead?”

Reporter: “Absolutely.” I pray someone, sometime will say, instead, to such an inquiry: “yes, obviously” or “that’s right” or “got it in one.”

If I didn’t abhor this description, I would say a lot of people today need to experience a “learning curve” – usually steep for added dramatic effect – to get them back to simple statements that mean what they say.

Now that’s what I’d call “joined up thinking/ planning/action” if only I didn’t include “joined up something-or-other” in my pet hates. Does it really mean anything: not to me it doesn’t.

Here’s another one to bother and baffle. “Not fit for purpose” – just say “no use, useless, inappropriate…” anything but jargon that serves no purpose.

OK, I hear you say it’s time to “Draw a line under this” – groan and groan again. If I “draw a line under” something, a word or a phrase, for example, then this means I want to be drawn to it, to remember it – not forget it.

And in business, while I am always happy to be given notice of something or be briefed on an issue, please don’t say to me: “I thought I’d give you a heads up.” It’s on my sin list and so is “no brainer,” a useless saying, overused and also unwanted in my book.

So, if people can be persuaded to get rid of all these rank awful phrases, I’ll be contented, pleased, gratified – but don’t dare call me “a happy bunny.” Crikey, that’s really duff.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this. Am I stuck in the grammar glory days of the past, or do I have a point? Let me know one way or another, if you wish.


  1. My hate phrase of the moment is "committed to" - as in "we are committed to customer service." Of course you are, hen, that's your bleeping job.

  2. Love it! My pet peeve is turning nouns into verbs willy nilly (oops, is that word OK?) like "we were up all night concepting" or making verbs intransitive for no bloody reason - eg "I need to feedback with you on that" AAAAAH!!!

  3. We're clearly signing from the same hymn-sheet here.

  4. I never understood 'blue sky thinking' or 'out of the box' when I worked in corporate land. What was wrong with simply keeping an open mind?

    Well said Mike.