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THE QUEEN'S INGERLISH

14-08-2006

Today I answered the phone to a salesman who launched into his patter with the words “How do I find yourself today?” I was momentarily thrown...... writes Andy Goff

I have become used to people misusing language in this way - substituting the correct and perfectly adequate “us” for “ourselves”, “them” for “themselves” (or even the bizarre bastardisation “theirselves”) and “me” for “myself” (which in Brummagen becomes “marsalf”, but this was something else.

How would the guy have reacted had I responded with “I didn't know yourself was looking for me today”? No doubt he would have been confused - and deservedly so.

It seems our language is being degraded hour by hour. I don't claim to be the paragon of received English but I can, generally, construct a useful grammatical sentence on demand.

In shops one is so often confronted with “Are you orlroight there?” when you're standing at the counter waiting to be served. I'm always tempted to reply (and sometimes do) along the lines of “I'd be all right if I was being served.” What on Earth happened to the infinitely more polite and appropriate catch-all phrase “Can I help you?”

Perhaps I'm just a crusty old geezer, but I am constantly irritated beyond measure by the lack of use of basic words such as “me”, “you”, “them” and “they”.

Do people imagine that using the word “yourself” when “you” would do makes them sound more educated when in fact they haven't even a GCSE in English to their name?

There are myriad other examples I could cite (note the correct use of the word myriad which, even in national newspapers, is too often prefaced with an “a” and suffixed with “of”), but here's just one: The phrase “at this moment in time”, rather than the word “now” removes the sense of urgency. Imagine a thug bawling “give me your mobile phone or I'm going to shoot you at this moment in time” and you get the drift.

Pointlessly and incorrectly embellishing our beautiful language not only conveys the ignorance of the speaker or writer, it also risks the more serious consequence of creating (deliberately or not) misunderstanding.

When this happens in politics, it can change the nuances of international understanding - and potentially cause unnecessary antipathy between nations.

The Iranians refer to the United States as the “great Satan”, which to a Muslim means an annoying trickster, but to the Western world is interpreted as “evil”.

Taking only the smallest of interpretive leaps, it could be said that few of us would have realised that when Tony Blair declared “education, education, education” what he really meant was “war, war, war”.

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