Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Bad Language - the roundup


I hate the way language gets mangled. I might be enjoying a nice pint of beer when a scruffy oik enters my domain and tells me that something is "addicting": he is pelted with left over jam roly-poly. The silly oaf who tells me that "Team GB did well" is kicked up the posterior and informed that the adjective comes before the noun - it is "the British team". The voluminously-robed lady who tells me her "gender is female" is forced out of the castle and into the moat, along with a sheet of papers explaining that male and female are sexes, not genders. Once they are dismissed the wolves howl and and the owls hoot during another lovely evening of refinement and System Shock.

What 3 things are wrong with the English text? 



I use this tag for Bad Language - things which irk, not because the language is evolving (inevitable and good), or because they are broken for a special purpose (justifiable), but because it is simply being used incorrectly by people who should know better. They're mistakes, not enhancements. I've not used the tag for a while so this is a bumper edition. The examples are signs, adverts and websites with mistakes on. The good news is that in a few cases I pointed out the error and it was fixed, so I was able to discard some of the examples I had intended to use.

A photo of a sign in Lidl, taken recently. Rogue apostrophe alert.

A Manchester billboard. Why do the designers hate anything that isn't lower case? 
Why do they think ampersands and underscores look "cool"? 
Their signs come across as so naff that the city's residents had enhanced the images 
on every one of the billboards around the building site.

In the Eurostar St Pancras terminal
The sign is ambiguous: a "coffee & bacon roll"? Won't that be a bit messy? 
It would be better as "Our freshly made coffee and a bacon roll" (or even better as "Our freshly made coffee and a tempeh roll", since I'm a veggie). 
The other error was their insertion of an exclamation mark within a sentence.

Eurostar - fewer than 10 seats, not less. (Update - Eurostar have now fixed this, and their site uses the more sensible wording of "6 seats left".)
It's also silly that so many companies nowadays try to make their options all sound like first class by adding words such as "premier", "gold", "luxury", "deluxe" and so on. You end up scratching your head as to whether the "premier deluxe" or the "luxury gold" is the standard option, which has nothing to do with any of those four words.

If you want more, have a look at Ed Holden's page on apostrophes and signs; The Guardian's Bad Grammar photos; and the kind of thing covered in The Poke. If you spot any examples for me to include then send them in, e.g. signs where something is wrong, or weird, or could be improved.

P.S. Any typos by me in this post are, of course, intentoinal.
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4 comments:

  1. From one pedant to another, for 3 (in the Aber uni picture), I would write three, but if it's 13, use the numbers.

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  2. You're absolutely right Alyson, normally I write out numbers below 11 (some people choose 12 as a cut-off, according to my Cambridge Handbook of Copy-editing). It's a useful guideline rather than a hard rule. In the first draft of the post I did write three, but then changed it to the number form because I felt it helped highlight how many errors to spot, drawing attention to the number as the focus. Just a stylistic thing, your version would have been equally acceptable. My point is that I didn't do it in error because I didn't know the guideline, I chose it for a purpose, whereas the changes many people make are purely either typos or lack of understanding. Thanks for pointing out a useful guideline - more information for readers here: http://www.grammarbook.com/numbers/numbers.asp

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  3. Do you mean the Capititalization, the apostrophe's and the failure to use a question mark.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Spot on! Unnecessary apostrophe for a plural; unnecessary capitalisation; and a question without the correct punctuation.

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