Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Words Words Words

Hamlet knew the value of words.  He read and he spoke.  How he spoke. 

The soliloquy, possibly the most frequently quoted (and  misquoted) piece of writing in the history of the English Language says almost all there is to say about Hamlet's state of mind.

So vivid is the picture it draws that no-one can possibly misunderstand his meaning.

What then is the purpose of words?  

My late father who misquoted absolutely everything ever written, when gently corrected, would say.  "You know what I mean, the purpose of words is to communicate, it doesn't matter how you say it as long as you're understood"

While on one level I agree with that, nothing on earth irritates me more than carelessly used words.  Words used to illustrate a point, but so badly chosen that they do the opposite.  Words mispronounced, used  out of context or deliberately chosen (the more letters the better), to make the recipient feel inferior.

I know I've soap-boxed this before, but TV presenters, advertisers, experts on this or that subject who cannot even correctly pronounce the subject of their expertise, drive me to distraction, and if accompanied by an ugly voice or in the case of one weather presenter, a thin, high-pitched nasal whine, make me want to throw things  at the screen.

My pet hate, since it it a subject which attracts me, is the mispronunciation of the word jewellery (joolery), and the misuse of the word "enormity".  Used widely to describe something of giant proportions rather than something heinous.

These are just the tip of an immense iceberg guaranteed to raise my ire without even trying.

Then there are the 'accidental' funnies.

Yesterday I heard "Last winter the RAC rescued a driver every 12 minutes".  Really?  He must have been  the worst driver in the history of the world.

Words.  Mangled, muddled, murdered by the tongues of English speakers everywhere, but nowhere more than in/on TV.

Yet those same words in the hands of a loving caring practitioner of the language can move mountains, melt hearts and inspire love, admiration, affection and every other emotion when used as they were intended.

This is not to say that I deplore the use of texting, twitter, and street slang, but there  is a place for everything .and just a little attention to detail in our everyday verbal dealings with other people could just possibly make a space for the beautiful English language  to flourish again.


  1. Yeah, right. I'm wid you. Innit!

  2. And that's why I love blogs and blogging, Ray. I read so many well-written posts, such as this one, which make up for at least some of the mangling of the English language in other places. Bring back the reading of English lit classics older than 'Lord of the Flies' and 'To Kill a Mocking Bird', say I.... :-)

  3. Thanks Perpetua. I can do my share of "mangling", but the difference is it is intentional and used mostly to illustrate a point. What I really deplore is the sheer laziness of speech and the poor use of such a rich resource.
    There are of course, some very good modern writers but even they when interviewed on radio or TV seem never to speak as well as they write.