05 Feb


I couldn’t believe it. I thought I heard someone call John Humphrys Sir John. Efficient broadcaster though he is, surely this was going a bit far? But no, it wasn’t Sir John. It was So John. This is the latest verbal tic. You must have noticed this widespread pretension of starting off every sentence with so. Not as a connecting word to show that something you are about to say follows from what has just been said. Just so – as it were. Apropos of nothing. It matters because any incorrect use of a word debases its correct usage.

I often wonder why there is this constant effort to improve the English language worse. All the “t’s” have long disappeared. The word deteriorate has been mysteriously replaced by the non-word deteriate. The nation has discovered an obsession with similes: why else is every other word like? I even heard “I was like like.” Then there’s the ubiquitous tendency to finish every sentence on a rising inflection, as if everything being said were a question innit? I’m informed this is the so-called Australian ending and that it derives from the soap opera Neighbours

These infelicities and desecrations are the verbal equivalent of sticking studs in one’s tongue, or indeed in other inappropriate places. Come to think of it, what constitutes an appropriate place for such barbarous ornamentation? And why do so many smart women affect to talk baby talk?

So – so to speak – I suspect people can’t help adopting these verbal tics any more than they can avoid catching colds in winter. If only good habits of speech were as catching as all the bad ones. I suppose it’s a variety of Gresham’s Law to guarantee that bad speech tends to drive out good speech. Whatever. I mean of course, Wha’evva.