Of course I know better than you

Correct English.

Language Log has a couple of new posts (Why are so many linguistic corrections incorrect?, Self-Incorrection, and The history of linguistic annoyance) about Telegraph readers’ most absolutely favouritest subject – the further decline of the English language. The latter post is about Craig Brown’s Telegraph article Today’s cliché is tomorrow’s proverb, following up the original Telegraph blog entry. The latter has now been inundated with over 2800 comments.

Of course, certain words and phrases annoy me as well. If I think about it, those mainly tend to emerge from politicians and the media. The former annoy me because whatever their new, big idea is, it definitely doesn’t include me and is never something in which I can participate. The jargon associated with the idea then gets overused. It’s as if each neologism is born a cliché. While the latter are the major disseminators of the nonsense spouted by the former, they also have their own clichés. There seems to be a tendency for such words and phrases to have their origins in American English and, were they used occasionally, they might be noticeable but not objectionable. They become objectionable for want of moderate use, and make hacks seem unimaginative.

The problem may simply be a consequence of the way in which we use language. We often use set phrases on set occasions. These are formulaic utterances which come quickly to mind, but if we were asked to try and create some phrase with a similar meaning, we might find it difficult to accomplish such a feat. In other words, if you’re the war correspondent or the political correspondent or the economics correspondent, you probably have a ready arsenal of phrases that spring to mind for the occasion. You’ve got a deadline. The sub-editor is breathing down your neck (how you wish he’d clean his teeth; how you wish that you hadn’t worn that top with a scoop neckline) and you need to get that article written. You know the drill. The subject is X, the clichés are Y, the article is written.

If variation came so easily to us under these circumstances, then there would be less cause for complaint from the linguistically astute but naive public; but we don’t always have the leisure to devise variations.

With regard to the matter of correctness in English, Mr Bamboo has a PhD, which means that even if you think his English is wrong, it’s actually right.

’Tis with our Judgments as our Watches, none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own.

Meanwhile, Language Log also has another piece on the idiocies of Conservapedia (Liberal bias is so un-American).


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