The Griping Hour

Right, it’s gripe time.

I don’t say again, as even though I do make a habit – nay an art – of griping, I haven’t griped here on this blog yet.  So, here’s to breaking my cherry then.

And a very succulent and glazed cherry it is too.

Today’s gripe, my dear readers, is on grammar and speech and, in particular, the gross and heinous mistakes all too often made in their use.

So, here’s your list – well, my list but I’m sure you’ll want to claim its brilliance as your own:

Right, I’ll get the most obvious clangers out of the way first:

Literally: Come on, don’t say this unless what you’re saying should actually be taken literally and not, in fact, figuratively, which is the case 99.9% of the time.

To Be Fair: To whom? That’s what I always think. To what invisible person or to what fragile essence are you so mindful of being fair? It’s no different from phrases like ‘No offence’, ‘Don’t get me wrong’ and ‘That being said’, all it does is undermine everything you say. Simply say what you mean and mean what you say, then be done with it. And when you are done with it please don’t be tempted to say ‘at the end of the day’.

You know what I mean/You get me: I wonder…at what point exactly do you think I might have lost you?

Like: I’m guilty of this too but it’s a meaningless filler. Half the time it’s used there’s nothing being compared and the other half it’s not like the thing, it is the thing, there’s simply no comparison.

Try/Come And + Verb: This one even creeps into formal writing. I’ve seen it in newspapers, magazines and books – everywhere. But it’s really slack. If you say ‘try and see me when you can’ what you’re actually saying is ‘try me and see me when you can’. It should be Try/Come To.

Existential: Arrghh, it’s ridiculous how overused this word is, usually by Gap Yah types who’ve never read a line of Descartes or Sartre or any of the existentialists in their empirically unverifiable lives. But at least they do their level best to pronounce their names with something approximating a French accent. There is that.

Among these people it’s quite unconscionable to think of saying the word ‘existential’ without following it up with its firm bosom-buddy ‘crisis’ . Indeed, it would seem these people are so often forced to question the very nature of their existence and stare down the barrel of the very greatest of ontological questions it’s a wonder they find the time to live at all. And yet, they do – somehow they do.

Disassociate: Disassociate isn’t a word. It’s dissociate. Just get it right really. Simple(s).

Basically: Basically, this is just overused and gets on my tits.

Actually: Like basically this is actually really used way too much. It should actually stop.

Pre-prepared: Prepared already means that  – readied in advance! Why are you sticking another ‘pre-‘  on there? You wouldn’t do it with predetermine, prejudge, or preexist, just because you don’t pronounce the ‘pre’ in prepared as a prefix don’t be fooled.

Pressurised: As far as I’m concerned this should be reserved for technical situations, e.g. when a gas is pumped into a container to increase the internal pressure. When you’re using pressurise to say putting pressure on humans it just sounds ugly. For that we have pressured.

Definately: No more subtle attempts to correct people who write this to me in emails and text messages. They seem determined not to learn from my better example. Even though I deliberately respond with the word spelt correctly, they categorically fail to get the hint. So here it is as plain as a bludgeon: definitely is spelt thus. Piss off with that ‘a’!

Disinterested: People keep on saying disinterested when they mean uninterested. Disinterested doesn’t mean bored or unbothered, that’s uninterested. Disinterested means without bias. A disinterested party is an impartial party.

Reactionary: Ok, this isn’t the same as reactive, which is what most people seem to want to say when they use this word. Reactionary is almost the opposite of reactive. It  means somebody who resists reaction, someone who opposes all changes to the status quo.

February Eighteen: Urghh and Urghh again. This is such a horrible Americanism which seems to have wormed its way into the UK through over-dramatic Hollywood film trailers. No Mr Overly-Excited Voiceover Man the film won’t be in cinemas on February Eighteen but on February the Eighteenth. Maybe you think and want us to think that by removing the ‘the’  it’ll come sooner. Well it won’t. The time-space continuum forbids it.

Jew-Lie: It was James Brown who once sang Please, Please, Please I think. Well, please, please, please can we stop pronouncing the beautiful month of July (the month of my birth no less) as the denouncement of a mendacious Sephardi?

Progrom: O you really, really shouldn’t be pronouncing programme like this. You also don’t want to be spelling it program.

Youmans: Not how you pronounce humans – so, hey, how about you just stop it.

Quicker: Ok, this is probably my biggest bugbear of all. Oh the amount of times I’ve shouted at the TV over this one. Absolutely everyone seems to get this wrong even those be(k)nighted bastions of proper speech over at Radio 4. What I’m referring to is how people say ‘Get there quicker’. It should be ‘Get there more quickly‘, just as it would be ‘It’s a quick journey to get there’, but ‘He got there quickly.’ It’s the difference between the adjective and the adverb – adjectives describe nouns, while adverbs describe verbs. But for some mysterious reason everybody seems to forget this rule as soon as the sentence becomes comparative. And so you get ‘Get there quicker’, ‘Do it easier’ and ‘Speak louder’ which simply makes my heart ache and my eyes weep.

A real-life example: the travelagent Ebookers currently has a campaign slogan which runs…

Book easier, travel happier

So, there’s no doubt it should be Book more easily. You could argue that ‘travel happier’ is alright though, as the happier could be said to refer to the traveller, rather than specifically to the act of travelling. But I suspect that it doesn’t and so it should be Travel more happily.


And there endeth the lesson. I hope the cherry has been most delectable.

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