Several dictionaries on a shelf. | Wikipedia


If a part of you dies every time you see the letters LOL or OMG you may wish to read a favourite book of mine entitled How Not To Talk Like A Complete Moron. I blame a number of factors in the corruption of the Queens English, however the majority of my scorn should be heaped upon our American cousins, who let’s face it, have never had the ear to appreciate the beauty of the English language and as I’m looking for someone, anyone, to blame - they will do nicely. Frankly, I don’t have the space in this column to list all the Americanisms that I rail against, but I have noticed one that is infecting everyday language. I have become aware of the fact that some people find it almost impossible to open a sentence without uttering the word - ‘So’.

Politicians are even doing it on the television and in parliament - I ask you! I think that inserting ‘So’ at the beginning of a sentence is bad enough, but it seems that randomly placing that short word when speaking can give your words more urgency or incisiveness. Thus, we have to suffer the following - “I so don’t care” then “I’m so having difficulty making my mind up” and then there’s always “I’m so not over him.” I believe that this linguistic trend is the work of the devil and it is my firm belief that it was first started by the socialite Paris Hilton about 10 years ago. In any event, if I hear this verbal tic being uttered in my vicinity my first instinct is to reach for the nearest heavy machine gun. Like, end of!

I have to say that business and commerce is not immune from writing and talking rubbish, or more accurately pretentious balls. Have you noticed that there are no more Personnel Officers anymore, they have become Human Resources professionals. Projects aren’t delivered or managed, they are “rolled-out,” and it seems that we each have a unique bundle of “skill-sets” - so that’s nice then isn’t it? It won’t be long before Sir Sugar points at a quivering cowering ‘Apprentice’ - whilst shouting “You are released to quantify your potential elsewhere.” Alas, as I have worked in the world of news/media and public relations for over 35 years I have witnessed my fair share of bull**** and rather shamefully have added to that huge pile of bovine waste. Yep, apart from being employed as a scribbler for various rags, I have also worked in public relations - which I guess is a bit like admitting to playing a piano in a brothel. Anyway, last weekend I was tidying up my shed when I came across something I wrote as part of a marketing project for a well-known company that produced dog food - I wonder if God will ever forgive me? In my overblown, purple prose, I wrote of the “integrity” of the product, waxed lyrical about the “wholesomeness” in the minced guts and offal that would make Rover the “bounciest, bestest and most beautiful barker…….” (trust me, it got much worse!) whilst not so subtlety hinting that if dog lovers didn’t buy the product it would be just as bad as hitting your dog with a baseball bat with a spike embedded in it. Do you know, I dread the day when my grandchildren will lisp sweetly at Grandpa and implore me to tell them what I did for a living before I made a run-for-it to Majorca. “Do tell Grandpa - do tell Grandpa.” But what to say? I’d love to say that I was a doctor, architect, train driver, a heroic firefighter perhaps? No, my little one’s - granddad made a good living writing crap about crap!

On occasions I have been accused of being a brain numbing, ocean-going, pedant; this I do not mind, as long as my critics agree with me that it is better to get things ‘right’ than to become both slipshod and inaccurate in all that I do. Tedious? Yes, on occasions. A bit of a worry? Undoubtedly, but so what! Irritating? Yes, I am that soldier - but as long as you don’t intentionally mangle your nouns and verbs - as in the word ‘party’ I will leave you alone. However, even I am but a craven backslider compared to a chap in Bristol who moves about the streets at night protecting the public from rogue apostrophes in the manner of a complete madman.

This grammar vigilante takes it upon himself to remove or include apostrophes in establishments as diverse as hairdressing salons and garages. Indeed, he blanked out an errant apostrophe and included another in a local nail-bar as in - Amy’s Nails. Furthermore, he set about a sign above a local garage that had offended him for years, and so Cambridge Motor’s turned overnight into the much more satisfying Cambridge Motors - as you can see minus the little thingamajig. Much as I do not wish to become a pedants pedant, I did notice that when our hero was being interviewed for a special programme on BBC Radio 4 he said of his nocturnal activities “It does make my heart swell slightly when I see a correct apostrophe” and went on to explain, “It’s a crime to have all those out of place apostrophes all over the shop - so I think that it’s right to teach the youth of tomorrow the right grammar.” He’s quite obviously as mad as a box-of-frogs of course - and if I were being picky would point to his rather loose use of the word ‘youth’ in that context. What say you?