Broken English by Trevor Plumbly

Bad language I notice that newsreaders, once lauded for their command of the English language, are becoming increasingly fond of sloppy Americanisms and tabloid phrasing, to the extent that deee!fence, oh!ffence and other bastardisations are creeping into common usage. When I question this, I am informed by those anxious to gallop past the more demanding aspects of the English language, that this is the ‘modern way’ and thus, ‘evolving’. It also means, according to those same champions of tortured terminology, that I am something of a dinosaur. I’m not ‘well-schooled’ in the… Read More

Proverbs and idioms by Angela Caldin

A few weeks ago, I was pondering on the difference between an idiom and a cliché. I understood that the overall meaning of an idiom is different from the meaning of the individual words used, whereas a cliché is a phrase or expression which has been severely overused so as to become hackneyed and stale. In addition, I realised that many idioms, though by no means all, are also clichés This week I’m pondering on the difference between an idiom and a proverb and finding that, though the distinction is often clear,… Read More

When a comma means so much by Susan Grimsdell

My favourite news item of the year is the one about a comma.  It was all about overtime pay for truck drivers, pay dating back over four years.  Big money was at stake – as much as $10 million. Truck drivers and grammar I love it because I have to confess that I’m one of the “grammar police”: very picky about the way words are used and about things like syntax, apostrophes, and for sure – commas.  So when I heard that the humble comma, placement of, was the key to a… Read More

Angela’s ABCs – clichés and idioms by Angela Caldin

At the weekend, I was telling anybody who would listen that I’d been spending time with someone who spoke using a lot of clichés. To illustrate my point, I gave an example, ‘We mustn’t upset the apple cart.’ My younger daughter, who, surprisingly, had been listening, said, ‘That’s not a cliché, it’s an idiom.’ I was intrigued. She knows about these things because she’s a primary school teacher and she teaches her Year 4s all about these figures of speech: metaphor, simile, alliteration, onomatopoeia, idiom and cliché. Even so, I still felt… Read More

What’s in a name? By Angela Caldin

There’s a New Scientist journalist called John Hoyland who invented the term ‘nominative determinism’ for those strange and interesting cases of people who seem drawn to their chosen profession because of their name. He became interested in the subject after hearing of a scientific paper by authors JW Splatt and D Weedon on the topic of incontinence, on the same day as seeing a book on the Arctic written by Daniel Snowman. Some obvious examples include Judge Judge and Doctor Nurse, as well as the music teacher called Miss Fiddle who became… Read More