Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 13/07/03

Crimes Against Language (#1 in an interminable series)

(Yes, I know: two updates in one day. But it has been 'busy, busy' these past two weeks).

I worry about the BBC. I worry about the state of education in this country. These two concerns come together in a couple of examples of the misuse of (or even the casual disregard for) language.

All right, I'll admit that it comes a bit close to home for me. Part of my job involves scrutinising letters which go out from our office for errors in form, content and language. I see enough avoidable screw-ups there to make me despair - and this from people who, almost without exception, are intelligent and articulate, even the managers.

One would have hoped that any organisation which concerns itself with the dissemination of information would at least take all proper care to ensure that the communication would be correct. But, to take just two examples from recent weeks, this doesn't seem to be a concern to the BBC, because both of these cases come from their teletext service CEEFAX.

The more recent referred to a botched police investigation into a murder case. Some public citizen got up to complain of the weakness of the conduct of the inquiries. Whoever he was (I forget now), I'm sure he wasn't as illiterate as the BBC made him out to be when he was quoted as having opined that the police's "expertise have not been shared".

This are getting ridiculous; since when have 'expertise' been plural? Ever since people started thinking that anything which sound like it end in an 's' are a plural, I suppose, in the same way that people don't seem to be able to handle apostrophes anymore (see here for a good idea about how to make the point on that question).

But, to be fair, it can sometimes be entertaining when one of these failures results in the creation of what is almost a parallel universe. I saw (again on CEEFAX) a quote from a football manager whose team had just lost a crucial game. "I am absolutely gutted. I am lost forwards."

Well, at least he'll be able to see where he's going....


Awww, Diddums! Is De Lickle Wich Boy Sad, Den?

I think the phrase I'm looking for rhymes with "Clucking bell!"...

I read that a psychotherapist in America says that we groundlings should show sympathy for the rich. Apparently, the poor darlings have a serious affliction, and she has dubbed it 'affluenza'.

I think you can judge the value of someone's ideas by the respect they show for language when trying to convey them. The coinage of such a barbarism not only demonstrates the fundamental loopiness of the idea, but goes a long way to show why so many in the mind professions (especially therapists) are held in such contempt.

Leaving my priggishness on that point aside, however, the notion that we should feel sorry for the wealthy is spectacularly brass-necked. It seems that being rich disturbs one's emotional well-being. Well, fan me with a dishcloth! Another blinding flash of the obvious!

One possible reason for such a debility which was not raised in the article which I read is that, given that the vast majority of the rich have become so as a consequence of being ludicrously over-rewarded (often for activities which have no real benefits for the well-being of society), these poor folk are overcome with feelings of guilt, remorse and futility. But then, most of these people never question the great good fortune which has put them where they are, so it couldn't be that.

Whatever terrible crises of the soul which may afflict them, I think most of us would rather have their problems than our own. I live in a village which has been scarred for nearly a generation by the slash-and-burn approach to industry taken by the detested Th*tch*r, and where most people have constant worries over whether they will still be able to afford the mortgage (or the rent, or the payments on the car, or whatever) next month. Most people in our society (you know, market-fans, the one there's no such thing as?) walk along the edge of a sword in financial and material terms, and have to mis-use so many of their precious few moments in their lives worrying about being able to have even some of the fundamental accoutrements of civilised modern life.

The idea that they (or, indeed, anyone else) should feel sorry for the rich is either a rather sick joke on the part of someone with a warped sense of humour, or it's a very clever attempt to assuage the annoyance of those of less elevated financial fortune, somewhat along the lines of wretched old clichés such as, "Oh, well, so long as yer've got yer 'ealth", or "It can't buy you happiness, can it?". These are anthems for the self-defeated, clarion calls to servile apathy.

Feel sorry for the rich? Pardon me while I blow me nose....