What are retrospective breaches?

Language is the least important casualty of our current political crisis, but it is a casualty nonetheless. In December, London’s Metropolitan Police foolishly suggested that their policy is not to routinely investigate ‘retrospective’ breaches of the law. I’m not qualified to discuss the legal, constitutional and ethical rights and wrongs of this notion. But linguistically…… Continue reading What are retrospective breaches?

We’re all saying it now

“Literally” everyone now says “literally” when they mean “figuratively”. Maybe we should now say “figuratively” when we mean “literally”.

Excited for

I’ve recently heard my daughter asking her children whether they are excited for things, for example about something that will be happening at school or about a friend’s forthcoming party. That usage sounds odd to my dinosaur ears. I would say I’m: excited about an event or thingexcited for a person I had a quick…… Continue reading Excited for

New words of 1986

I recently came across Longman Guardian New Words, by Simon Mort (1986). It gives a fascinating interesting snapshot of words that entered mainstream British English in 1986. The author says the book has 3 aims: to entertainto provide a convenient reference package of the patterns, logic and fashion of word formation of 1986to be a…… Continue reading New words of 1986

Not so kind regards

Many people now use ‘kind regards’ as their default sign off on emails. This sets my teeth on edge. I was brought up to describe other people (or their actions) as kind, but never to describe myself (or my own actions) as kind. Such self-praise was viewed as an unforgiveable example of ‘blowing your own…… Continue reading Not so kind regards

Crooked usage

Crooked usage: a street name, not a commentary. Seen on a bus in Finchley (London) in 2016. Too slow to get a photo myself but here’s a link to someone who did. Is This London’s Oddest Street Name? | Londonist

You need not understand

In English, auxiliary verbs (have and be) and modal verbs behave differently from all other verbs. For example, they combine differently with negatives, as shown in the following table for auxiliaries (have and be), a modal verb (can) and another verb (go). TypePositiveNegativeAux (have)You have goneYou have not goneAux (be)You are goingYou are not goingModalYou…… Continue reading You need not understand

I’m humbled

Politicians have recently taken to saying they are ‘humbled’ when they win an election. Likewise actors and other creative artists at award ceremonies. But nothing about winning could make them humble. They might have good cause to become more humble if they lost, though in most cases even losing wouldn’t be enough to give them…… Continue reading I’m humbled

Representing you lazily

The pedantic old dinosaur in me gets grumpy when people use the verb ‘represent’ as a pretentious synonym for ‘be’. My inner dinosaur gets even grumpier when the literal meaning of this verb contradicts the intended sense. One striking example I saw: “women represent only 32 percent of lawyers”. Are these ladies really representing the…… Continue reading Representing you lazily