From the category archives:

things people say that I hate

  • Why pick on adverbs?

    Posted by on February 07, 2013

    The former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was fond of the expression “totally and utterly”. We were regularly told that something was “totally and utterly unacceptable”, or that she “totally and utterly condemned” some recent outrage. (She wasn’t alone in favouring this combination: our corpus includes 130 examples.) Not one adverb but two! So Mrs […]

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  • Terminology or jargon? You’re empowered to decide…

    Posted by on December 22, 2011

    We’ve been here before, but I couldn’t let Plain English month pass without another look at corporate jargon. Back in May, Briony Drimie referred to ‘a vein of Business English …  we commonly know as management-speak, which I have loathed since I first heard it’. She singled out a few well-known offenders: going forward, transitioning, singing […]

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  • Plain English Awards 2011

    Posted by on December 13, 2011

    It’s the Plain English Awards season again, as Stan Carey noted in his recent post, and across the country winners are basking in the glory of an award or ruing their luck in being singled out as exemplars of gobbledygook. One of the recipients of a “Golden Bull Award” (for the year’s ‘best’ examples of […]

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  • This will literally have you in stitches

    Posted by on June 06, 2011

    A recent round-up of language news featured an article by Robert Lane Greene, explaining his dislike of the word literally: ‘When used as a mere intensifier … it has almost no kick at all. And when misused, it can be spectacular.’ On the face of it, he has a point. We know that words don’t […]

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  • Language wars and proper English

    Posted by on February 09, 2011

    Another battle in the ongoing ‘language wars’ was fought in London earlier in the week. There were no clear victors but the forces of reason looked more convincing than those of prejudice. The excellent Evolving English exhibition at the British Library hosted a debate on Monday on the always contentious theme of ‘What is proper […]

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  • Is Alay your ally?

    Posted by on January 20, 2011

    Alay is a way of writing that allows you to use capital letters and numbers wherever you jolly well like in a word and it’s currently trending on Twitter. Alay started in Indonesia in about 2004; it seems that it has provided a root for a phenomenon that pervades many areas of popular culture, such as fashion […]

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  • 10 most popular posts in 2010

    Posted by on December 17, 2010

    Similarly to this time last year, we are bringing you a list of those blog posts on the Macmillan Dictionary Blog which have been the most popular in terms of number of readers. Many of them still have ongoing conversations so have a read and join in by commenting! I would like to take this […]

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  • Blended family – the democracy of new words

    Posted by on October 14, 2010

    Check out this recent entry in the Macmillan Open Dictionary, blended family. A blended family is one formed from previous, unsuccessful relationships and replaces the old term, stepfamily. I don’t actually like this phrase; it suggests they’ve all been mixed up in a food processor, and I think it is a victim of the current fashion for everything to be […]

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  • Silly signage

    Posted by on August 24, 2010

    Do you ever see notices or signs that irritate you, or just bring a really bizarre image to mind? Even if they’re grammatically correct, the wording is so odd or unexpected that it grates on you every time you read it. And then, of course, there are the myriad ones where the grammar isn’t so […]

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  • The new F word

    Posted by on July 26, 2010

    So, somebody please tell me when the word fine stopped being fine? When exchanging greetings with friends, I used to reply to any enquiry as to my health as ‘Fine, thanks’. When I still lived up North, a wry ‘Mustn’t grumble’ would usually suffice. This does not seem to be adequate any longer. People have […]

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