Posts Tagged ‘Language’

Rudeness dressed as Politeness

30 December, 2009 1 comment

I just heard a series of people say “How are you” in the most perfunctory way I’ve ever come across.

I’ve left off the question mark from that sentence because that’s an accurate portrayal of the interaction. None of the people waited for a response because none of the people posed a question. I heard three different interactions between pairs of people and in each case they couldn’t wait to move on to the thing they really wanted to talk about – which was to buy something.  WHAT’S THE POINT?? You don’t care how the person behind the till is – and that’s fine. They don’t really care about you either. So don’t go through the pretence of politeness just so that you can tick the pre-programmed box in your head which says you have to. Assuming that you haven’t got the empathy levels to care about other members of society (used to be called decency, i think) then either ask a question and have the courtesy to wait for an answer – even if you just pause long enough so that it sounds like you give a damn that there is an answer never mind what it might be. OR just buy the drink and skip it.

Perhaps this rant is because I’m working in Canary Wharf with the armies of soulless suits? or is it that this is a perfectly acceptable way to communicate? am i old fashioned? or just going soft cos it’s Christmas time?


Hitting the Tube

29 July, 2009 Leave a comment

How subtle our language can be  and how dangerous when used poorly.

Today I witnessed the wonders of the English language almost causing a cat fight between an earthy, white london lady and a robust nigerian femme fatale. perhaps that should be femme fatal.

Carriage isn’t full. Londoner enters, sits down next to Nigerian opposite me. Nothing remarkable.

“You Hit Me”, says the Nigerian. Imagine the very distinct, assertive tone with the stress on Hit. The tone isn’t aggressive or high pitched but nonetheless it cannot help but come across as robust and accusatory.

“I’m sorry? what was that?” says perplexed Londoner.

“I said, you hit me”

“What? what are you on about?”

“I thought you should know, you hit me. You should apologise”

“What?!? I didn’t touch you!”

“I am telling you that you hit me so that you can apologise”

“But I didn’t hit you.”

“You hit me”

“I’m not apologising for anything”

<frosty silence till I got off the tube>

In my mind they go on to talk about their cultural differences and by the end of the line they’ve realised how much we have in common as humans and that the world’s a better place if we don’t assume the worst, come out of our commuting bubbles and are a bit more careful with our language.

I almost intervened to suggest replacing the word “Hit” with banged, knocked, nudged, bumped into… or anything else that might more accurately have described the gentle collision of the kind we all experience every time we go into the tunnels. But then I think I would have been the one who got hit.

Imagine what it’s like working for the UN.


4 January, 2009 Leave a comment

If you’re going to bastardise the language – at least be consistent

From the use of the word Brewery, the Kiwis have decided that Winery is the right way to describe a vineyard which then goes on to make its own wine. I can go with the idea that there’s a difference between a winery and a vineyard, but only just. However, to add insult to injury, they add cidery to the list of linguistic crimes …. whereas we all know it’s a B&Q colour at best. an adjective, surely, not a noun. But, alas, i am a lone voice shouting irrately in the wind. But what really winds me up is that, on the same sign as Winery and cidery, they decide that the place where fruit juice is made into a commoditised drink is called a… yes, come one… a Juice Factory. I despair. Juicery is horrible – but consistency would have been appreciated.

Sunburn addles American brain

23 December, 2008 Leave a comment

Bladen winery is a lovely little place run by Dave McDonald and we were just tasting the Pinot Gris when an american couple joined us at the bench. Sunburnt, oh yes, on having a) not allowed for rolling up your sleeves and b) not allowed for the thin ozone here. BUT that still doesn’t forgive the perversion that ensued.

Ready? the conversation goes like this:

“You have to remember to put on the sun cream all the time” says she

“Well I never leave home with out a factor 50 on” says I

“Yes, my brother is complected just like you” says he


For the love of all things holy. The English language is a wonderful thing and primarily because of it’s ability to be flexible and adapted in creative ways. But this isn’t creative. It’s just lazy.

To create a verb out of a noun – probably called verbalisationary changeification by Children of Bush – is fine if there isn’t already a good way of saying it. But there is a good way. In fact there are several ways and perfectly decent grammatical structures that would have achieved the same end. But that would have required him to think for a moment rather than open mouth, let noise come out.

I didn’t bite, by the way. Nor did I laugh, scoff, point, or slap.  I was, admittedly, quiet for a few minutes while i tried to process what he’d just done and then decided that  another glass of wine was probably the next best step.

Is Google making us stupid?

23 October, 2008 1 comment

Interesting piece here found by Ant at MLP. Yeah, Google’s great, but what is it doing to our minds?….

Extract: “For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price…”

Not liking “Like”

23 October, 2008 1 comment

For the love of, like, God, could we please stop saying, like, “like” every second word.

My friend Gary Krimershmoys mentioned it to me first some months ago when he noticed it in his own language – but then he’s a new yorker so I was mildly impressed at his approach to linguistic discipline. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the flexibility and the creativity of our wonderful language, but the word is being used in such a random space-filler kind of way that basically I actually don’t literally have time for it. hrmph.

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