Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It’s only words

I bought a Dime bar today. I hadn’t seen one for years; possibly because they’re now called Daim bars. However, just as I insist on Marathons and Opal Fruits rather than Snickers and Starbursts, the Dime name is safe in my house.

I don’t know why we have to change the names of things to fit in with Europe or America. I used to buy Jif; but I’m certainly not paying for a bathroom cleaner that makes me think of a venereal disease.

Words are important to me; I spend much of the day manipulating them into what I hope are lucid sentences. When I see British people using Americanised spellings, I wince. ‘Favorite’ and ‘color’ infuriate me; I gag when someone writes ‘gray’; ‘center’ makes me choke on my coffee.

My journalism tutor was ‘old school’. He always wore a three-piece suit with a pocket watch, and would ask the ‘ladies’ for permission to remove his jacket. He insisted the best way to plough through dusty law notes was “with a whisky in one hand, and a blonde in the other”. He didn’t like newer meanings for words: ‘pathetic’, to him, would always mean ‘in need of sympathy’.

I do not hold such a reactionary stance towards new words and meanings; I believe language is fluid and have been known to invent a few words of my own. However, I am old school when it comes to apostrophes. I have seen many cases of itchy apostrophe disease, but one sticks out in my mind as blatant abuse.


I was working in what I had hoped would be a very brief stopgap job (it wasn’t; I was there for a year-and-a-half and spent many evenings sitting crying on my kitchen floor). This company sold goods identified by codes made up of letters and numbers. One uncouth youth would repeatedly add apostrophe ‘s’ to denote the plural on invoices and boxes. Finally, I could bite my tongue no longer. I told him it was wrong and why it was wrong.


“My way might be wrong,” he said, “but it looks better than yours.”

29 comments:

Mopsa said...

Never mind cif/syph, I still can't get my head round that cillit bang thing http://www.cillitbang.co.uk/.

Arthur Clewley said...

ah, so somebody watches that Julian Fellows quiz on BBC 4 then. I hate sloppiness too, although am as guilty as anyone I should think. If you are writing something then surely you should take a pride in it, whether is is for money or as a mere amateur like me. Having said that however, I can't stand people who read a huge long article and all they have to offer is a spellcheck. Those people think they are clever but if they can't form an opinion about a sentence,paragragh or entire text but only about one single word then then they really missed the point of learning english at all.

Eurodog said...

Could not agree more.
There is spelling but usage as well. In New York one day I asked for flat water and the waitress replied "as opposed to wavy?". She was right of course I should have said still water but then English is not my mother tongue but I did not get into that with her. Here floppy use of language is getting common place. In a restaurant here in Brussels I was asked when ordering a bottle of water whether I wanted "avec ou sans bulles". I am an adult for goodness sake!

ziggi said...

aves bulles every time please!

Karen said...

Ugh no all you can taste is the CO2.

I am word freak. I love to read the dictionary and try and learn new words as much as possible. My current favourite word is 'infundibular'. I think English is a beautiful language and love it for all its quirky spellings and pronunciations. I bet it's a fucker to learn though because of the lack of "rules" sometimes.

I have seen Never Mind the Full Stops and quite enjoy it. There's also a good porgramme on 6Music that has a section about one of the DJ's hate of peoples' misuse of words and grammar. I cringe when it is spelled 'grammer'. On a different note Balderdash & Piffle is also quite an enjoyable programme.

People who say pacific instead of specific annoy the hell out of me. It is powers of attorney and not power of attorneys (I think I have mentioned this one before).

Another bugbear of mine is tautology. Some awful woman on BBC breakfast said the classic "new innovation". But whilst looking up this phenomena on Wikipedia I found the classic Torpenhow Hill.

This satisfies me on so many levels:

Etymology - 'tor', 'pen' and 'how' all mean hill.

Pronunciation - it may be spelled torpenhow but you pronounce it tru-pen-nah.

Tautology - as 'tor', 'pen' and 'how' all mean hill the place is called Hillhillhill Hill!

M&M - I hope my apostrophe's didn't offend you (apart from my last deliberate mistake to goad you). I do try to use them correctly!

Sorry to go on so but I am very passionate about my mother tongue.

Arthur Clewley said...

There is a 'Pen Hill'in Wensleydale too karen. One tautology in a name is quite enough this side of the Pennines

mutterings and meanderings said...

Mopsa, I wouldn't ever buy cillit bang, even if it was the best thing ever because of the adverts.

Arthur, so they make programmes for people like me? That's lovely! (see how I wrote 'programmes' and not 'programs'?)

Eurodog, for one whose mother tongue is not English, you write it incredibly well.

Ziggi - you bairn!

Karen, I love that Torpenhow Hill...

james higham said...

...and would ask the ‘ladies’ for permission to remove his jacket...

Now that's one I'm going to try tomorrow with the girls. See what they say. Pity it's just a leather jacket. Never mind.

The Grocer said...

I remember a short time after they changed the name of Marathon to Snickers I was trying to explain to an ex colleague that Boots had asked us to change the description of Hair Ruffles on packaging to Scrunchies. After listening for a while he replied, "Ah like they changed the name from Marathon to Snickers" which at the time was very funny but reading it now makes no sense... sorry going away now.

Brom said...

I love words and playing about with them, and get "uppy" when I see flagrant disregard for obvious bad grammar. You can excuse typos and occasional bad spelling, but the old ' does suffer.

This is a perfect cue for a new term my mate and I invented down the pub the other night. But I think I should do that on my own blog! hehe. It's OK, I will credit you with a link in dear Mutterings.

mutterings and meanderings said...

James, you must let us know their reaction. We used to giggle ...

Grocer, I know what you're saying...

Curiouser and curiouser, Brom ...

Yorkshire Pudding said...

The thing that infuriates me is the widespread and "stylish" ignorance of required capital letters. There is even a car hire company called Holiday Autos that rejoices in its disavowal of required capital letters. As a teacher of English I feel I am up against it when children notice so many pairs of fingers being hoisted towards traditional writing conventions.

ziggi said...

I've gone back and put the missing apostrophes in Miss!

Brom said...

Oh, yes, while we are on the subject..

Newkiller??? NO NO NO it's Newclear!

Stay at home dad said...

You appear to be flouting that particular convention yourself Mr pudding (sic)!

Anonymous said...

Yes ! Yes ! Yes ! Finally someone who understands that American spellings are wrong ! wrong ! wrong !

It annoys me massively that internet programs [sic] refer to 'favorites' and 'renewal center' and so on.

Not sure I understand your reference to 'daim' bars. Our management centre for training used to specialise in a 'Dime bar' cake which was lovely. Maybe your local confectioner has bought in a job lot of cheap German choccies in a bulk buy deal from a white van man?

Anonymous said...

Karen - my favourite word a couple of years ago was 'fungible'. As project managers we were meant to be a pool of resource which was 'fungible' and could be deployed on projects in a number of different areas because of our flexibility and adaptability.

I preferred to think they used it because of the word 'fungi', meaning 'kept in the dark and covered with..'

Anonymous said...

Having just returned from Wales, one of the bugbears there is the increase in number of 'adapted' English words where a Welsh word already exists.

Okay, so words like 'plismon' and 'ambiwlans' have existed for years.
[The original word for policeman was 'heddgeidwad' which literally translated means 'peacekeeper']

But on ATMs we have 'balans' for 'balance' and you buy your petrol in a 'garej'.

I went into a cafe through a door which was no longer 'automatic' or 'peirannol', but 'otomatig' !!

This is a big problem in France, but they have the Academie Francaise to defend the lingo.

Mind you, the Welsh are adept at inventing new words in the internet arena. 'Hafan' means 'Homepage', 'wefan' means 'website' and I think www is either 'we byd eang' [world wide web, or 'w driphlyg', [triple oo!].

Arthur - I kinda take your point, but one only has to look at a lot of internet comments, even on things like the 'Telegraph' or 'Comment Is Free' [cif!] and there are so many grammatical errors it is difficult to make any sense of them at all.

Anonymous said...

I have some slight sympathy for your friend in one sense.

DJs and CDs shouldn't have an apostrophe, but sometimes one is then confronted on American news agency sites with 'dvds' or 'vcrs' and one does start to lose the plot slightly.

Of course, it is the Americans who started this obsession with acronyms...

Winchester whisperer said...

I'd have thought M&Ms would be more your sort of thing...

mutterings and meanderings said...

No, no, no waggling finger in an Amy Winehouse-esque manner, apostrophes should not be put in CDs, DVDs, or 1970s or 1980s etc.

WW, I actually prefer Smarties.

Gill said...

I feel rather sad if I go past a market and it isn't selling apple's and pizza's and hot dog's somewhere. I try to use grammar etc. correctly myself but I can't say I get in a rage when other people don't.

Anonymous said...

M&M - the real problem is that some words are misspelled so frequently that it is now difficult to get the genie back in the bottle.

'Definately' and 'Incredable' are the worst offenders, but there are many others.

Anonymous said...

Of course the Daily Telegraph has its own column for this sort of thing.

If you are 'tired of public illiteracy' you can 'name and shame' the offenders..

spellingmonitor@telegraph.co.uk

Go on, you know you want to..

Previous offenders have included Tesco, Standard Life, Alliance & Leicester etc.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the 'daim' thing is to do with not breaking the 'Trade Descriptions' thingy, as it clearly costs more than 10 cents - especially as the dollar is on the slide...

But those Krafty bastards are the ones who have hoovered up Terry's of York into a global multinational, in much the same way Nestle hoovered up Rowntree Mackintosh. I fear Cadbury may soon fall prey to the locusts of Private Equity...

I, like the view said...

ooh

I love Dime bars - however they are spelt!

Karen said...

Anonymous - I am fascinated by the Welsh language and wish I could speak it (being half Welsh myself). Perhaps they have started this pig Welsh (or should that be sheep Welsh?) so that English people feel that they can speak it.

I always thought police was heddlu.

Welsh accents can also quite sexy if they're not too strong. That chef on Great British Menu Bryn Williams' accent is rather nice (and is rather nice in general).

I have seen daim bars so maybe my local shop has been importing them too. I often see foreign coke cans in the fridges too...

Mopsa said...

you'll never see this M&M as it's an old post, but I thought you'd enjoy one of the many bonkers spellings to be found on blogs - this seen today: "communpense". Took me a while to realise it meant comeuppance.

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