Posts tagged English usage

Press gets it wrong – again


If there’s one characteristic of the English Empire’s free and fearless press and the news media in general that’s immediately apparent to anyone with more than one brain cell, it’s their usually remote relationship with the truth.

In the last week or so a new word has emerged – pingdemic – in relation to the coronavirus pandemic to describe the large volume of self-isolation warnings issued by the Covid track and trace app (aka pings (pl.), as derived from the computer networking utility of the same name. Ed.).

Thus the terms ping and pingdemic have become part of normal newspaper and news media vocabulary, as shown in this typical example from yesterday’s London Evening Standard.

Headline reads Ping threat to our food, tube and bins

Whoever wrote the headline Ping threat to our food, tube and bins has clearly not thought the matter through.

It’s not the pings that are the threat but the viral plague which is giving rise to rocketing Covid, aided and abetted by an apology for a government that has removed restrictions far too soon and relinquished – in exemplary Pontius Pilate mode – all responsibility for safeguarding people’s health in the rush to let all their rich mates resume making Loadsamoney again.

All news is to a certain extent manipulated, but if those that right it cannot even get the basic details correct in a headline, is it any wonder that there is deep mistrust in the media?

Still, never mind with all this gloom and doom. Immediately adjacent is a prime example of look over there in the form of the current 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.

The staff of the Standard clearly seem to have adopted the comment by Juvenal, the 2nd century Roman poet famous that the common people are only interested in bread and circuses (Latin: panem et circensis. Ed.) as editorial policy

Hidden exclusive: HGVs carrying agricultural vehicles now illegal


The Ipswich Star is not believed to be widely read on your ‘umble scribe’s home turf of the West Country.

Indeed, your correspondent would not have looked at it at all had his attention not been drawn to a report of a local Tory councillor spouting denialist nonsense about racism.

However, checking out the paper’s news section resulted in the discovery of another of those hidden newspaper exclusives that seem so prevalent these days.

This hidden exclusive came in a piece about the successful start made by the constabulary’s new commercial vehicle team, which, since its inception in November 2020, has stopped 969 vehicles, dealt with 1,436 offences and issued £181,950 in fines.

Suffolk Constabulary's Commercial Vehicles Unit

Suffolk Constabulary’s Commercial Vehicles Unit. Photo credit: Suffolk Constabulary

The hidden exclusive can be found in the paragraph below, which details the team’s work.

A total of 189 vehicles were prohibited from the roads, 80 were immobilised and 222 given warnings, for offences including being overweight, mechanical reasons/condition, insecure loads, tachograph infringements, carrying dangerous goods, abnormal loads and agricultural vehicles.

Yes, you did read that right: within the context of that sentence, commercial vehicles carrying agricultural vehicles is now an offence.

Normally at this juncture in a post such as this, your correspondent would be castigating the journalist responsible for this gaffe. However, the sole thing for which I can criticise her is churnalism, i.e journalism based on press releases, rather than the journalist’s own investigation and research.

In this particular instance the sentence in question has been copied from the original police press release without scrutiny of its content and pasted directly into the Star’s piece.

So, now the workplace of the guilty party is known, one can say in conclusion someone in Suffolk Constabulary’s newsroom clearly needs to get hold of a dictionary and consult the definition for ambiguity.

Sunlit uplands – latest


How are matters progressing five years on from that referendum and over 6 months since the end of the Brexit transition period?

In simple terms, what was dismissed as Project Fear has very much become Project Reality.

Crops are rotting in the fields due to a lack of seasonal workers to pick them, whilst a shortage of lorry drivers means that any fresh produce that does get picked might not be delivered to shops and supermarkets.

Photo of empty supermarket fruit and vegetable section over shelving headed Pick of the Crop and Best of British

Floreat Brexitannia!

Whitehall BS5 sends a message to Whitehall SW1


This blog has written before about the changing messages that appear on a garage wall at the apex of the junction of Russelltown Avenue, Cannon Street and Whitehall Road (posts passim).

The message has now changed again and reads as per the photo below.

Text in photograph reads Boris is a big bumbahole

According to Urban Dictionary, bumbahole is a synonym of arsehole in British English and asshole in American English.

One can safely assume that the Boris being referenced is none other than the superannuated Billy Bunter-like figure of one certain Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who has been inexplicably promoted beyond his competence to the office of Prime Minister of the English Empire, a job he fulfils to his own satisfaction on a part time basis.

Among the less favourable characteristics of Bunter’s personality are gluttony, laziness, racism, deceit, sloth, self-importance and conceit, all of which have been extensively documented down the decades by others more eloquent than your ‘umble scribe (e.g. his former employer Max Hastings) as also being present in the part-time alleged prime minister’s character.

Boats grow legs


Since the widespread dismissal from newsrooms of sub-editors, the very people who would have spotted and corrected any inaccuracies and/or anomalies, many more hidden exclusives are being reported nowadays by our free and inaccurate press, provided one knows where to look and reads carefully.

Last week, the Shropshire Star had a hidden exclusive buried deeply in a piece on towpath repairs to the Shropshire Union Canal and local traders’ fear of loss of footfall in my home town of Market Drayton.

Shropshire Union canal in Market Drayton

Betton Mill on the Shropshire Union Canal in Market Drayton. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Canal & River Trust, which manages the waterway, is planning to close the towpath through Market Drayton for repairs lasting two months. This will also entail a loss of moorings during the works.

The fact that is has chosen do these works in the ten weeks from July 5 to September 10 hasn’t gone down too well with the director of one local boatyard, who is quoted as intimating that the closure would be a hammer blow to the summer trade, preventing visitors from mooring in the town and visiting shops and restaurants.

In a quotation in the report, she said the following:

It is basically the full length of the canal that goes through the town. Boats that would normally moor up and walk round the town, they won’t be able to do that.

Boats that would normally moor up and walk around town?

These two actions surely would be consecutive and not concurrent?

When did boats evolve the means of locomotion to be able to walk round the town?

Why have the national and international media not picked up the Star’s exclusive? After all, it is not every day that aquatic craft evolve enough to generate limbs.

If you have an answer to any of the above questions, please leave them in the comments below. 😀

How the forget-me-not got its name

Forget-me-nots (Myosotis) are a genus of flowering plants. The name Myosotis derives from the ancient Greek μυοσωτίς meaning mouse’s ear, which the leaves are said to resemble.

According to its English Wikipedia page, the colloquial English name of forget-me-not has been in use since the late 14th century and is a direct translation from the German Vergißmeinnicht.

Photo of forget-me-nots

Myosotis. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

However, it is to the French Wikipedia article on the foget-me-not that one needs to turn for the presumed origins of this commemorative colloquial plant name.

According to one legend, a knight was walking by a river with his lady. He bent over to pick her a flower, but toppled over due to his armour and fell into the water. While he was drowning, he tossed the flower towards her crying out “Forget me not!”

It goes without saying that the legend fails to explain why the hapless knight felt the need to don his armour for what was ostensibly a safe situation. No health and safety risk assessments or technical standards for PPE in those days!

Talking of risky situations, the forget-me-not has become a flower of remembrance in the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador where it is used to commemorate those who were killed in the First World War.

Similarly in Germany the forget-me-not became a flower of remembrance for those who fell in conflict from WW1 onwards.

In other countries, the forget-me-not has assumed a different commemorative function, one dealing with those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as happens in the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Modern oxymorons – latest

Brexit opportunities.

Of course, Britain’s departure from the EU is such a shining success, particularly in the light of the fact that, in the words of one Michael Gove, “we hold all the cards“.

No further comment is necessary.

Recruitment advertisement for a Director of the Cabinet Office's Brexit Opportunities Unit

Writer of children’s books

Yesterday, the right-leaning part of the population who seem to believe that culture as they know it is in danger of being cancelled (whatever that may mean. Ed.), was fulminating against yet another of those left-leaning organisations – English Heritage. Its crime: amending its online information about the children’s author Enid Blyton to reflect more accurately her writing and views.

While English Heritage’s blue plaque commemorating Blyton remains unchanged, the charity’s online information about her now details the problematic aspects of her writing and views.

In particular, the information on Blyton has been amended to describe her writing as including racism and xenophobia whilst lacking literary merit.

To illustrate Blyton’s racism, English Heritage’s online content notes that in 1960 Macmillan refused to publish Blyton’s children’s novel The Mystery That Never Was, noting her “faint but unattractive touch of old-fashioned xenophobia”. As a child, I can’t say I remember noticing the racism and xenophobia so much on the very rare occasions I picked up Blyton as a child (the golliwogs should have started the alarm bells ringing. Ed.), but the lack of literary merit was clearly apparent to my developing brain. Her work came across as simplistic and formulaic, but my brother loved her stories, a matter in which he persisted despite the mocking and urging from my sister and me that he read something less lightweight.

Although she did not specifically mention Blyton by name, it was clear that actor and comedian Joyce Grenfell clearly had Enid in her sights in her monologue Writer Of Children’s Books, as embedded below.


One of the staples of local news reporting is the activities of the emergency services – police, ambulance, coastguard, fire service – and in this regard Bristol Live – formerly the Bristol (Evening) Post is no exception.

Yesterday’s online edition reported on the fire service’s attendance at a possible incident on Colston Street (soon to revert to its original name of Steep Street after the city’s Victorian great and good renamed it after a slave trader. Ed.).

However, once again the reporter’s poor English is disappointing to read.

In the second paragraph readers are informed that

The alarm was sounded after what was believed to be an electric fire in Colston Street at around 8.22pm.

Where was the said domestic appliance left? In the roadway? On the footway/pavement?

Clarification was helpfully supplied by the fire service, whose spokesperson commented as follows:

Upon investigation, the issue was determined to be under the pavement and originating from an area of recently excavated electrical works.

So the fire, if it ever existed in the first place, was electrical, not electric.

As an aid to passing hacks wishing to improve their vocabulary, there follows below a handy pictorial guide to the difference between the two. 😀

An electrical fire

An electrical fire. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Electric fire

An electric fire (aka electric heater). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The art of the studied insult

G7 2021 logoThe outcome of the now-concluded G7 summit in Cornwall was to have been so different. Flying in the Red Arrows to impress the forrins with high-speed aerobatics, wheeling in Elizabeth Mountbatten-Windsor and her family in to schmooze and press the flesh; even the notoriously fickle English weather behaved itself.

Yes, the impression part-time alleged prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his organising committee wanted to do was show a reinvigorated English Empire, confident and occupying a major place on the world stage now Brexit had been done and the country had broken free of the shackles ostensibly imposed upon it by the Brussels Eurocrats.

However, what has emerged is the English Empire’s diminished role and importance in the world as a consequence of Brexit. The G7 media headlines have been dominated by the problems caused by Brexit and in particular the UK’s failure to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol, a binding international treaty signed as part of the divorce agreement between the EU and the English Empire, a matter which earned the part-time alleged prime minister a rebuke from US president Joe Biden.

However, Biden’s was not the only reprimand earned in recent days by Johnson’s government of none of the talents. On social media David Frost, the English Empire’s chief Brexit negotiator, who is also known as Frosty the No Man on account of his negotiating style, earned the displeasure of those on Twitter who can see further than the White Cliffs of Dover for turning up to a crunch meeting with the EU wearing tacky Union Jack socks.

In addition, Frost and other members of the alleged government have been widely quoted in the right-wing British media as calling on the evil EU to be less purist in its interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol. Consulting an online dictionary, one of the definitions of purism is a strict adherence to particular concepts, rules.

That’s right. The EU is and always has been a rules-based, whereas Britannia has long preferred to waive the rules.

The above-mentioned meeting between the EU and the English Empire did not end well, with EU officials clearly exasperated by the attitude of the English Empire government.

In particular, the words attributed to on EU official quoted have been interpreted as patronising by the Daily Brexit, which some still call the Express.

According to the Daily Brexit:

An aide to the EU chief told Channel 4 News that the tweet “was in English so that the British can understand it”.

This anonymous quote clearly falls into the definition of a studied insult.

In this context studied denotes an insult that is either the result of deliberation and careful thought or is based on learning and knowledge.

The quote is clearly aimed at the monoglot Brits’ ages-old reluctance to learn foreign languages (apart from Latin and classical Greek.? Ed.), even though a properly global Britain will need all the linguists it can get, but shows no signs of producing, with both the number of British universities still teaching degree modern language courses in decline and the number of undergraduate linguists also in decline.

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