Campaign For Real English

Every now and then one hears things that jar; things that grate on the nerves; well, mine, anyway. There are at least two types of bastardization of our language going on.

I was preparing to collect Carol from her return easyJet flight to Luton airport and had pulled in to our local Tesco filling station to top up the tank  I like to use the “pay at pump” positions and avoid the kiosk. There was a Nissan Joke Juke at the pump in front of me. I had inserted my club card (the scanner never seems to work) and had just inserted my payment card when the lady standing beside her Joke Juke addressed me.

My brain had trouble processing the message and I couldn’t quite figure out why. I asked to repeat herself. Again, I had trouble. Cogs turned and eventually I figured out what she had said.

I’m sorry; I’ve released my hood accidentally. Do you know how to put it back down?

Hood? You’re not wearing a hood, I thought. For some strange reason, though she seemed to have not a trace of an accent and sounded English, she was speaking American. Evidently, in trying to release the filler cap, she had mistakenly released the bonnet.

Timing could’ve been better, having just introduced my payment card. I withdrew it and went to her assistance. I re-seated her “hood”. I desperately wanted to say, “3000 miles across the northern Atlantic, they call this a hood but in this country, it’s a bonnet”, but I thought better of it.

Is this the latest descent on the slippery slope towards the Americanization of our language? I do hope not. There seems to be at least one new descent every year.

My delicate nerves were assaulted by the other form of bastardization when we were out for a meal on the evening before Carol left on her trip. A family was seated at a table near ours. At one point I heard the mercifully well-behaved daughter say

Mum, could you itch my back?


No, nobody can itch anything, itch is not a transitive verb. Verbs are either transitive or intransitive. Itch is intransitive, it doesn’t operate on something else. Your back may itch but it can’t be itched. If your back itches, you want it scratched for education’s sake. What are we doing?

There’s another similar example that really makes me cringe.

You must be joking me

Arghh again!

More mixing up of transitive and intransitive. You may be joking but you cannot, in any way, shape or form, joke something or someone else. You can kid them; to kid is a transitive verb, or you can simply be joking.

This is just plain ignorance. That phrase sounds belittling, I know, but it shouldn’t. Without learning stuff, we’d all be ignorant. I imagine it’s become unfashionable to correct people these days. How else are they supposed to learn, though? It doesn’t have to happen in an unfriendly fashion. We can bottle up our screams. 😉

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4 comments on “Campaign For Real English
  1. BlasR says:

    What about “Eat Local”? It really annoys me.

    • JC says:

      Ooh, I’ve not heard that one. Adverbs in the trash can, then? Trash can being an acceptable Americanization. 🙂

  2. Steve says:

    I always call the front of the car hood. Mainly to wind up R.

    I did discuss language with Rosemary. My thoughts are we are getting old. We learnt English in the 60s. The language is dynamic and not owned by one country. It has moved on in the last 50 years. Those who learnt English in the 1910s sounded odd to me in the 60s.

    • JC says:

      I agree that some of it can be put down to that dynamism. We adopted cool as meaning good rather than cold, some time ago. I still think constructs that are plain wrong should be discouraged. There’s no excuse for itching something or joking somebody, or that disgusting “bigging it up”.

      We risk obfuscating meaning sometimes. Cool could have.

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