What are your least favourite words and expressions?
Here are a few of mine. They annoy because the misuse the language and don’t mean what they say. Yes, I do know that English, in fact all language, is in a constant state of evolution and what something means today may be quite different from what it meant a century ago and in a hundred years’ time it will probably have an entirely different meaning. Even so, there are some words and phrases that set my teeth on edge.
This word should mean someone who is unbiassed in a dispute, a neutral observer who takes care of the cash – the stake – and makes sure it goes to the right individual at the end of a conflict. Nowadays it is used to mean one of the participants in a dispute, someone who is involved and does have an interest in the outcome.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen someone described as a “lifelong” member of a political party or a “lifelong” advocate of free speech or freedom of religion. This conjures up a picture of an infant in its pram waving a rosette and shouting party slogans. It’s just not possible – you can’t be a lifelong adherent of some system that requires you to make a reasoned choice before you have the ability to choose. The only truly “lifelong” conditions are inherited defects – ie someone can be a lifelong paraplegic if they have been born with that condition rather than developed it as a result of an accident or illness,
Why do so many people use this as an over-elaborate way of saying “is”? Wordsworth’s cottage isn’t “situated” or “located” in the Lake Districr it simply is there.