Friday Reflection: Weeping for the mangling of our language

Richard Burrell has a question for journalists who use the term ‘carjacking’.

Word or phrase Carjacking in a dictionary

A couple of weeks ago, a Friday Reflections contributor complained about the modern use of words, particularly relating to 'texting'.

I also weep for the mangling of our language.

Where the heck do the hacks get ‘carjacked’? We know what happens when a plane is hijacked. It is taken over at gunpoint, a terrible thing. The event is reported by saying that the plane was hijacked. It is not planejacked!

So, when the same thing happens to a car, what's wrong with saying that the car was hijacked?

Now, because the writer has said 'carjacked' they have to avoid saying the 'car was carjacked' so they quote the make the Lexus, or the Mercedes or the Maserati. I notice we never read of a Corolla being hijacked. There! See? Hijacked reads okay, and it makes sense.

Hijacked is a perfectly good word. It means to seize by force a vehicle, especially a passenger-carrying vehicle. (Oh, like a car, you mean?) So, let's use it, and not twist another word with it through the wringer. (Is that like a bell?)

By the same sort of mangling, we could read that while the plane was diverted because of bad weather, cars and trucks finding floods on the way were ‘carverted’ and ‘truckverted’. (Yep, that sounds okay.) Oh, dear! Go on, you can make up your own.

As well as the mangle, writers can also bring a tear to my eye by the use of the malaprop.

Why do we read and hear that the patient was 'released' from hospital? Released? Why released? They were not locked up. They had been cared for while they were sick, and when they recovered, the hospital was no longer charged with the responsibility for their wellbeing. So, the patients were discharged. It is prisoners who are released. Yep, patients are discharged.

Here's another: perhaps because writers of today have only seen a horse in a book or, more likely, Google images, we get the expression ‘... from go to woe’. Oh dear again. It is woe all right.

To give you a smile, I can quote from an old street directory of mine. (Remember them?) It shows the Duffys Forest Bridal Trail. Yes, it's true! And I can picture the beautiful white-clad maidens floating along the bush track, giggling, and holding up their hems and flowers.

You don't know whether to laugh or cry. Oh, whoa is me! I'll stop now.

Do you have other examples of the destruction of the English language?

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    COMMENTS

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    Flippit
    18th Sep 2020
    3:56pm
    I want to scream when I hear people say yous, see yous. Doesn’t anyone know that the word you is the same in singular as in plural? I’m sure it is done deliberately although why, escapes me. Maybe it’s a desire to get rid of the ‘king’s English’ or simply get ride of the a Monarchy.
    My other pet hate is hearing an interview with someone who punctuates every few words with ‘you know’ or ‘um’. The same goes in the same context when someone constantly throws up their hands or their arms. Even the French and the Italians who customarily gesticulate when they speak, do it in a more subtle way.
    Are we going back to the age of the Neanderthals who just grunted to communicate?
    Winston Smith
    18th Sep 2020
    6:38pm
    Since you mention the French, I hope you realise they have a separate words for the plural and single "you". Polite English is missing that word. Southern Americans say "y'all". We NEED a word for the plural you. Snobs object to "yous". Shame.
    JAID
    19th Sep 2020
    7:17pm
    "You" works well in both singular and plural use I think. Have any tripped up? Perhaps but I have never noticed.

    "tu" and "vous" are a long way from an exact alternative providing singular and plural use in French. About all that can be said is they see some use that way. If speaking to a family group or a group of good friends, perhaps a class of young children and some others you may likely say 'tu'. Variations on use appear quite subtle.
    Tood
    20th Sep 2020
    1:35pm
    UM really annoys me after every phrase or sentence, the filler noise while thinking of what to say next....way to stop it? close mouth after sentence; its very hard to say UM with mouth closed, then open mouth when ready to speak again.
    CountryCatkin
    18th Sep 2020
    5:04pm
    Well, you know, it’s like, um, er, yes no - she FELL pregnant. So it’s an UPCOMING event. (Just a few of my pet hates.) There are plenty more of course and all YOUS readers, like Flippit probably SEEN other crass examples of how our language is being slowly, but surely ruined or eroded. THEM people what DONE all this MUST OF thought how they can be understood MORE BETTER by VUNERABLE folk who wouldn't even know about the letter aitch if they fell over it.
    Jen
    18th Sep 2020
    11:29pm
    Yes CountryCatkin. VUNRABLE is a pet hate of mine too. Also "reduce DOWN". It is not possible to reduce something UP is it?
    ozirules
    18th Sep 2020
    5:08pm
    Y do peeps get sew upset ova bad speeling and misuse of werds. Beets me.
    Eddy
    18th Sep 2020
    5:15pm
    Dangling participles are my particular peccadillo, sometimes I wonder why some journalists are not sent back to kindergarten to redo their education.
    Examples:
    'The car hit a tree on its way to Albury'. Question, why was the tree going to Albury?
    'Sitting on a park bench, the Sun went behind a cloud'. Question, did the bench get singed when the Sun sat on it?
    Dancer
    18th Sep 2020
    5:26pm
    And what about "the people that went to the beach" - no it should be "the people WHO went to the beach" - "who" for people, "that" for inanimate objects ie the plane that crashed.
    o many misused words these days, I cringe every time I read or hear it....
    Also the misuse of "I" instead of "me" - "Peter and I went to the airport in a taxi", is correct, but not "The taxi took Peter and I to the airport" - it should be "The taxi took Peter and me to the airport" because if you drop Peter from the sentence it would be "The taxi took ME to the airport" not "the taxi took I to the airport"....
    I wonder sometimes where these weird grammatical errors come from .... any ideas?
    80 plus
    18th Sep 2020
    5:43pm
    At this point in time as I am between a rock and a hard place and I need to take this window of opportunity to express my thoughts. OR at the moment I am stuck and need help
    Keithb
    18th Sep 2020
    6:18pm
    I hate 'gotten' popping up everywhere. We're not american (yet).
    Winston Smith
    18th Sep 2020
    6:41pm
    I deplore the increasing use of "outside of", when "outside" on it's own is perfectly adequate.
    CountryCatkin
    18th Sep 2020
    7:00pm
    Note to Winston -
    I am an unashamed snob, considering that I totally object to the use of ‘yous’.
    When confronted with that abominable word, my mother always stated that she was not a female sheep.
    Then again, maybe we are sheep these days, happily following the fracturing of the language into fresh paddocks.
    Winston Smith
    18th Sep 2020
    8:27pm
    But can you acknowledge that English is actually missing a word for the plural you?
    Tood
    20th Sep 2020
    1:37pm
    WS try the American drawl..... youall
    Beelzebubbles
    18th Sep 2020
    7:07pm
    "irregardless". I don't care if the Merriam-Webster AMERICAN Dictionary accepts this double negative as a valid word, it's as horrible as using "learnings" instead of "lessons", and that other increasingly common abomination - "me and..."! Then there's.... *shudder*... "Youse"....
    BillW41
    18th Sep 2020
    7:15pm
    O me miserum! (Woe, not whoa, is me!) Every student should be made to learn Latin, and then advance to French, Spanish or Italian. They would then have a proper appreciation of English as it has evolved and should be spoken and written.
    Other lazy examples: "Back to back" instead of "consecutive"; plural "they" instead of singular "he" or "she" (or is that entering into a different [sex-fraught] sphere?).
    ozirules
    18th Sep 2020
    7:40pm
    That's a big call BillW41.....why learn Latin unless you are going to visit Latvia.....
    Winston Smith
    18th Sep 2020
    8:28pm
    LOL
    54-11
    18th Sep 2020
    7:41pm
    One of my personal pet hates is when rent-seeking politicians talk about "serving the Australian people", or their "public service" when referring to their Parliamentary careers. One of the worst offenders was/is Tony Abbott.

    The only servicing they do is to us, not for us.
    fey
    18th Sep 2020
    7:54pm
    It grates when someone says 'your correct' when it should be 'you are correct'.
    Maggie
    20th Sep 2020
    5:58pm
    Maybe that's because the abbreviation of you are is you're.
    ozirules
    18th Sep 2020
    8:01pm
    Language has one function and that is as a means of communication. It evolves over time as each generation influences it's development. Texting shortcuts would not suit William Shakespeare and the bards language would be a bugger to type into my phone....(sorry, my mobile telephone). If someones tells me that my cruise is over so get off the ship, it doesnt really matter if he says debark or disembark, my bloody holiday is over, kaput, finito. The people that brought us microwave ovens, space travel, keyhole surgery etc. may not have won any literary awards but who cares, only those on this page that dwell in the past when teachers used chalk and things were done 'proper'. This is the mentality that prevailed in the flat earth society. Dust off the cobwebs, lament the past you cant relive and leave the 'Kings' English to slowly die off as we all must.
    CountryCatkin
    18th Sep 2020
    8:22pm
    I object to your many of your assertions. Fellow commentators and I have certainly moved with the times in a multitude of ways and yet we still value the correct use of our language. Of course there are times and places for the use of evolving language, but at the risk of being labelled a purist, I will stick to my dislike of poorly used words and phrases. We were taught well and carefully at school by teachers who knew their craft. I have worked with words in the three jobs I enjoyed during my years of paid employment. The people who designed the modern household or medical appliances were also pedantic - making sure that in their fields of expertise the end results were designed, manufactured presented and marketed as well as was possible. We do the same with words.
    ozirules
    18th Sep 2020
    8:56pm
    CountryCatkin you are fighting a losing battle. I too was brought up at a time when manners and good grammar were valued but those times have passed. I spent the seventies working in the new world of computers where coded language was a way of communication between me and a machine. I spoke the computers language and the machine did my bidding. Language is a tool, nothing more. I can appreciate poetry. It can give me joy. It can evoke nostalgia. It can bring a tear to my eye, but when I talk to those I wish to impart a message to, I use the idiom they prefer. Just like talking to a computer, it gets the job done in the most efficient way. I started my working life as a printer where the English language was a thing of beauty and the proofreader was God. The proofreader is a thing of the past and I now cringe when I read a newspaper and see things like 'soul parent' or 'I had a lone from the bank'. I accept this as both a decline in what I once held as standards and a sign of my passing into irrelevance. You and your fellow contributors can vent as much as you like, I hope it gives you some comfort, but it wont change a thing. English as we were taught has lost it's place in mainstream conversation. As for your your careful use of words, I draw your attention to your first sentence. I only draw you attention to it, I dont criticise as I know it must be a slip of the finger but maybe that's how language slowly changes. A slip here, a shortcut there, maybe an lol creeps in somewhere. Outside this forum of old fuddy duddies (me included) who really cares that the Kings English is on a ventilator, unlikely to survive.
    CountryCatkin
    19th Sep 2020
    11:06am
    I did correct that first line! Slip of the finger. Nearly had a fit!
    Of course I know that language is constantly evolving, but some things are a no-brainer in understanding what is correct. Trouble is, many younger teachers have not been taught the basics. I can text with the best of them and use certain short cuts. I also began using computers in their early days and later, the internet was and still is a wonderful gift. I take your points, but I do stand by my assertions about the misuse of language, rather than its evolution.
    ozirules
    19th Sep 2020
    1:15pm
    CountryCatkin I think misuse over time helps drive evolution. I am not a defender of misuse but just cannot see how we can get back to the values which were once held. (Sorry, which were once more widely held ). When my children were in High school (30 years ago) home computers were around but not every student had one. I was furious when my son had his assignment marked down because it was handwritten and not typed. I was upset for two reasons, the fact that we encouraged him to practice his handwriting skills and that the content of his assignment was discounted because his parents did not own a computer. I knew then that the standards we held dear were on the way out. Speed today is paramount. Everything is geared to instant gratification, no one has time for the niceties. It's nice to see so many contributors to this site defending the proper use of English and I share some of the views posted here but I fear it's a lost cause.
    Jennie
    18th Sep 2020
    10:46pm
    I can't stand "haitch." There is no such word as "haitch" It's AITCH - the letter H. And don't tell me it's to reflect the sound of the letter. There is no /w/ sound in the name of "W." OK.

    And "similar to" but "different FROM." that is logical.
    And why say "know-un" for "known?" We don't say "pho-un" for "phone."
    BillW41
    19th Sep 2020
    10:33am
    Because, Ozirules, Latin forms the basic structure for those languages.
    What about "is" when it should be "are"? There IS many aspects to this - wrong!
    And why "get-go" instead of "start"?
    ozirules
    19th Sep 2020
    12:27pm
    I hate get go too. I hate the way we have adopted American sporting terms too like deefence and oh fence. I wonder why the Americans use longer words than us for everyday things like automobile for car and elevator for lift, apartment for flat etc. Re Latin, I did two years of Latin at high school and dropped it as soon as it became an elective subject. I also dabbled in French (I've been to France, still haven't been to Latvia, sorry Bill :) but fail to see how knowing a foreign language would improve my use of English. That said, I appreciate that you probably have a far better grasp of the benefits of being multi lingual in fine tuning both writing and speaking skills than me ( or should that be myself or I ). Surely the first priority of any language is to get the right message across with the niceties a concern for only those who appreciate them. I'm just happy that I have enough of a grasp of English to communicate with you and other users of this site and if my lack of finesse causes you amusement or distress ce la vie.
    Poppa Bear
    19th Sep 2020
    1:52pm
    Do you ever reverse your car back? Not sure how you could reverse it forward!
    Trish
    19th Sep 2020
    3:18pm
    The frequent use of Bought instead of Brought. The singular of bought is buy, and of brought is bring. Gives quite a different meaning.

    When writing, why do people put IT'S (meaning IT IS) instead of ITS.
    But the apostrophe does need to be put in DON'T, WON'T etc. Ozerules, if you want to leave it out, be consistent!
    ozirules
    19th Sep 2020
    3:58pm
    Trish, why do you use capital letters to highlight a word in the middle of a sentence. Do you think we are that thick that we won''''t get your point without shouting. Is that how you were taught to write? If you have read my previous posts, you will gather that I am not one of the language police who is upset by silly little things like missing a question mark here and there. Read the LAST part of my previous post and you will SEE that MY take on the subject of language misuse is 'such is life'. Your schoolmarmish attempt to chastise me for being inconsistent is amusing. Is it therefor better in your eyes to be wrong consistently than right occasionally ? I forgive you for spelling my moniker wrong btw, none of us can get things right all the time :)
    Maggie
    19th Sep 2020
    8:13pm
    I feel really sad at the lack of the use of correct grammar by newswriters and show hosts on TV in Australia. They are models, especially for young people and newcomers to this country who are encouraged to watch TV to help with learning English!
    Some really shocking errors are made.
    There is too a lack of understanding about when slang is inappropriate, for example in the national news.
    The use of acronyms is a pet hate of mine. Visitors to this country have a hard time trying to understand what we are talking about.
    Maggie
    19th Sep 2020
    8:13pm
    I feel really sad at the lack of the use of correct grammar by newswriters and show hosts on TV in Australia. They are models, especially for young people and newcomers to this country who are encouraged to watch TV to help with learning English!
    Some really shocking errors are made.
    There is too a lack of understanding about when slang is inappropriate, for example in the national news.
    The use of acronyms is a pet hate of mine. Visitors to this country have a hard time trying to understand what we are talking about.
    BillW41
    20th Sep 2020
    11:35am
    I remember a newspaper report about baby swans - signets!
    Plural of scarf should be scarves, dwarf - dwarves, but roof - roofs. English is fascinating!


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