Those who have visited my site at www.xenoformat.com/ will have already noticed my disdain for the general and widespread misuse of the English language, but here I go again. Apologies in advance for a long post.
We’ll start as we mean to go on, with an example. I’ve just returned from a skiing holiday in Austria. Whilst I’d like to say that my writing paid for this, it didn’t. The moral is that more people need to buy my books, but that’s beside the point. While we were there, my girlfriend pointed out the following to me, on the label of her ski gloves. She knows I have a special interest in such things.
“Ladie’s” gloves? Grrr!
Suffice to say that my gears were sufficiently ground by this label that I remained so distracted for the duration of the day that I stacked it badly on a steep red and landed on my ‘men’s helmet’, which is every bit as unpleasant as it sounds. Thanks to the makers of the gloves in question for my near-death experience!
Some may accuse me of grammar fascism for my criticism of such seemingly minor issues, but my counter argument would be as follows: we used to have a wide variety of local dialects in Britain, and the language of one region was at one time almost indecipherable to the people of another. English was standardised for a reason, and the reason was clarity. If language doesn’t serve to effectively communicate then it serves no great purpose at all. Of course, American English is different in some respects to British English, but the point is that it is still standardised. This is so that we can all tell what people mean by their spoken and written words. Although there is an argument that language is a fluent and changing thing, which should serve the people rather than vice versa, there are still clear cases of genuine misuse all around us.
Observe the following, categorically different, example:
Ladderless window cleaning? Well, I beg to differ, because I can see the ladder! I can bloody see it! Apparently, this is an increasingly common problem, ie:- the inexplicable requirement of ladders for the activity of ladderless window cleaning. Because here’s another:
Next is a deliberate and seemingly reasonless corruption of English, representing a type with which you will all be familiar:
Now, I realise that may seem entirely innocent to the more forgiving mind, but it actually represents the type of bad English that irritates me most. It serves no purpose. Are we to believe that this is an especially ‘street’ and ‘sick’ example of a tap adaptor, or maybe that the word adaptor would be too long and confusing for the intended audience, ie:- those with taps in their homes? Or what? What, exactly, is the point? It’s not as if there was insufficient room on the packaging to just print it properly.
Here’s a picture of some facial wash (bear with me):
Aqua, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Decyl Glucoside, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-55 Propylene Glycol Oleate, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Chloride, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Panthenol, Glycol Distearate, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Methylparaben, Bisabolol, Citric Acid, Polyquaternium-39, Tocopheryl Acetate, Cocamide MEA, Laureth-10, Disodium EDTA, Dipropylene Glycol, Benzoic Acid, Anthemis Nobilis Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens Oil, Propylparaben
Now, I don’t know if Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate is genuinely “kind to skin” or not. And I’ll forget for now my doubts about whether or not you can actually absorb “multi-vitamins” through the skin at all. My point is that the language used on the front of the tube doesn’t seem to gel very well with the listed ingredients on the back. If it were truly simple, I’d expect to be able to effectively replicate the formula in my own kitchen. In reality, however, I’d be as likely to create an explosion as I would be to create a facial wash by combining Propylene Glycol and Tocopheryl Acetate together at home. And that’s if I could lay my hands on them at all. It’s simply not that simple. And yes, I realise that “Simple” is the brand name, but the implication remains the same.
Next, the Brighton Argus, my local newspaper, gets a special mention for stating the bleedin’ obvious:
Finally, all writers know that repetition is the enemy of good reading flow. I know that Microsoft never claimed to be a literary organisation, but here’s a favourite of mine from them:
Yes, “To check for updates, you must first install an update for Windows Update.” Let’s not forget that in order to check for this update for Windows Update, Windows Update itself must first be updated, or it won’t even find said Windows Update update. My brain hurts. That’s bad English for you.
Naturally, there are many, many others. Such examples of bad description, poor communication and bastardised grammar are all around us. If I had more space here I could effectively go on forever.
I’d just like to say (type) thanks for putting up with me as I gallop round on my little hobby horse bemoaning the state of the universe, and if any of the perpetrators highlighted here would like to sue me, here’s my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org I have almost nothing for you to take, apart from the packet of biscuits that I hope to have completely consumed by the end of this post, and I warn you, you’d better word any legal documents carefully or we’re in for a long and painful association. I’ll also happily accept any complaints about my own linguistic hiccups at the same address. I know I’m not perfect, either; but at least I try. Oh, and yes, that’s Mike with a small M, for which I can only express my deepest regrets.