Careless talk that costs words their precise meanings

Have your say

From: Brian H Sheridan, Redmires Road, Sheffield.

HAVING read Fr Neil McNicholas’s letter on bad linguistic habits (Yorkshire Post, November 27) I would love to think I had written it myself. In fact, I would humbly claim that some of his remarks on the word “unique” have appeared verbatim in one of my earlier letters.

I think we have to make a distinction between developments which are a mere irritation and solecisms which are intrinsically damaging to the English language.

One of my own pet hates is the tendency to pronounce the vowel sounds in words such as “look” and “book” like “work” and “perk”.

I loved Received Pronunciation – remember it from good old BBC Third Programme and the film Brief Encounter?

Yorkshire speakers such as Ian McMillan and the late Brian Glover, “tee” (too) and “yee” (you) also make me cringe.

However, none of this is harmful: unlike the misuse of words such as “unique”, “aggravate” and “fortuitous” which takes the cutting edge off a wonderfully precise instrument.

Sadly, dictionaries recognise the mutilation of vocabulary as acceptable usage. I have no problem with foreign expressions entering our language, especially if they are as meaningful as déjà vu.

Yet this expression is now over-used to mean an experience which is actually repeated rather than its true meaning: the illusion of an experience being repeated when it is really happening for the first time.

Likewise, the term Good Samaritan is much more pregnant in meaning than recent usage suggests.

From: Hugh Rogers, Messingham Road, Ashby, Scunthorpe.

If I ever find myself in St Gabriel’s parish, Middlesbrough, I shall make a special point of seeking out Fr Neil McNicholas and shaking his hand.

I may even treat him to a cup 
of tea and a sticky bun for his views on the current slaughter of 
the English language upon the altar of youth, laziness and populism, which mirror my own entirely.

Sometimes it feels very lonely to be, apparently, the only person left on the planet who cares about such things as the misuse of “less” instead of “fewer” by broadcasters who should know better.

Dare I mention that non-existent disease “dip-theria”? Or the rather weird science of “zoo-ology”?

Bless you Father, you are a man after my own heart.

From: ME Wright, Grove Road, Harrogate.

Fr Neil McNicholas speaks 
for many of us in his comments on declining standards in 
English; but the news is not all bad.

In the same issue, it was reported that 29 people 
had been arrested for drug and prostitution offences at “Winston’s Massage Parlour” – note the apostrophe.

Perhaps we should acknowledge that 
standards are not slipping everywhere!