This is not a hoax!

Another month, another Islamist-related terrorist incident in London. According to the BBC, the man shot dead by police ‘had what appeared to be an explosive device strapped to his body, police said, which was later discovered to be a hoax.’

What happened to ‘imitation?’ A hoax is a plan to deceive; it describes an action, not an object.

Put a stop to it!

I don’t know whether it’s because of Brexit, but there is a subtle change in pronunciation taking place in British English. The phrase ‘the EU’ is said much more frequently these days, as the nation debates the issues around Britain leaving the European Union. It’s a little awkward to pronounce those two ‘e’ sounds one after the other. So people have started to shift from saying ‘thee EU’ to ‘thuh EU’, spoken with a slight stop at the back of the throat to separate the two words.

What’s interesting is that this glottal stop is becoming more widespread in general speech. So ‘the orange juice’ becomes ‘thuh orange juice’ even though it doesn’t facilitate pronunciation.

One of the many unintended consequences of Brexit!

Too many words!

You know that old demonstration of our everyday mistakes in perception? “Paris in the the spring.” When laid out on the page so that the line breaks after the first three words many readers do not notice the duplicate “the”.

Well I have begun to notice that people are doing a similar thing in speech. It isn’t “the” which gets repeated, but the word “is”. As in

The problem is, is the government has missed its target.


The trouble with that suggestion is, is it’s totally impractical.

Here is an example. In this two minute YouTube clip the speaker does it three times. It’s almost imperceptible, but she definitely slips in a duplicate “is” each time.

Is this new, or have people always done it?

How to cheat at sport

I have previously considered the cliché move the goalposts but what about the oft-demanded level playing field? We all know what is meant by the phrase, but I cannot think of a sport where a sloping playing field would disadvantage one team.

Take football. If your team finds itself on a playing field with a distinct slope towards their goal, you can relax in the knowledge that the second half will redress the imbalance when the teams change ends. In any case, surely it would have to be a really significant deviation from the horizontal to make a difference?

When I am World King …

According to Boris Johnson’s sister Rachel,

“As Boris was growing up whenever anyone asked him what he wanted to be, he would answer: ‘World King'”

Well, if I were World King, the following would definitely be made illegal straight away:

  • Starting a sentence with “So …”. Example Q: “What do you do for a living?” A: “So I’m in marketing.”
  • Using the phrase “bidduh kit”. Example “This potato peeler is a great bidduh kit.”
  • Saying “yummy” or “scrummy” after the age of 5.

As Boris is more likely to get the job, perhaps I should write and suggest these new laws to him.

What’s the difference?

North American manglers of the English language have long since adopted the phrase ‘different than’ but I notice that more and more speakers of British English are saying ‘different to’.

When comparing things, we are deciding if they differ from each other. Not to or than each other.


In the interests of sexual equality the word ‘actress’ has been phased out. One word for one profession. But why didn’t we phase out ‘actor’ instead?

I think it’s now time to purge the English language of other gender distinguishing words. Let’s stop saying ‘he’ and ‘she’. Let’s just choose one and dump the other. ‘He gave birth’ sounds strange now, but at one time, so did ‘She is an actor’.

Watts in a name?

The apocalyptic natural disaster in Japan has been compounded by the enormity of the sinister nuclear threat from the crippled power plant at Fukushima Daiichi.

These appalling events, still unfolding, gave rise to an entirely trivial observation on my part about nomenclature. They measure radiation dose in sieverts, temperature in degrees, length in metres, power in watts, and so on.

The seismic energy released by an earthquake, however, would be expressed for example: ‘magnitude 9.0 on the Richter scale’. Well, you wouldn’t say ‘a distance of 1500 on the metre scale’ or ‘the temperature reached 22 degrees on the Celsius scale’. So when it comes to earthquakes, Why don’t they just say ‘9.0 richters’?