A pedant’s epistle to his apostles
The inescapable media are responsible for certain words and tropes becoming viral and driving me mad. Viral is a much-misused word, thanks to computer malware. Let’s replace it with ubiquitous.
Nobody any longer has problems; they have only issues. This makes no sense; issue and problem are not even synonyms.
There are perfectly adequate English metaphors for procrastination, deliberately delaying dealing with a matter. The matter can be shelved, or (an allusion to cricket) it can be batted into the long grass. There is no need to use the American metaphor, which borrows from an urban street scene: kicking the can down the road, a phrase which one inevitably hears whenever a politician is talking about Brexit.
Another recently-emerged epidemic I find nonsensical and aggravating is the careless use of the word incredibly − which means not to be believed − when the simple word very would be what is usually meant. If you say the England cricket team has been incredibly successful in 2019, do you wish me to believe or disbelieve that it has been successful?
Much misused is the word significant, to which my brain immediately responds: signifying what?
In most cases, what the speaker means is not significant, but important, or big.
I understand that our English language is not fixed in stone, but why change the meaning of a well-established word in order to convey a meaning for which there is already an entirely adequate word.
Much used nowadays, especially by politicians, is the word nuanced. For example: the Prime minister made a nuanced statement on Trump’s latest tweets. Perhaps we are intended to understand that the statement was delicately worded. So why turn a noun into an adjective, in order to use a fancy word for a simple meaning?
By the way, note that in the first line of this rant, I have correctly treated media as a plural noun. When I hear media pundits say “the media is”, I reach for my revolver.
My pedantry is not a hereditary condition; I became infected as a teacher. I wore out many a red pen.