Are you experienced?

A few minutes ago, I put up a new blog post (see below), and was encouraged by WordPress to “switch to the improved posting experience”.

Goddammit, does no-one speak in English any more?

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9 responses to this post.

  1. You clearly aren’t a blue-sky thinker. Don;t you want to optimize your customer interface?

    Reply

  2. I had to go to the local clinic lately for a retina scan, and I was asked afterwards to fill in a form to rate on a scale between 1 and 10 whether or not I’d “recommend” my “experience”.

    English is such a richly expressive language, but it seems various people are going out of their way to make it as ugly and as inexpressive as possible!
    And in case you were wondering, if anyone reading this has a couple of hours to spare, I’d warmly recommend a Full Retina Scanning Experience.

    The Ogre does what ogres can,
    Deeds quite impossible for Man,
    But one prize is beyond his reach:
    The Ogre cannot master speech.

    About a subjugated plain,
    Among it’s desperate and slain,
    The Ogre stalks with hands on hips,
    While drivel gushes from his lips.
    – W. H. Auden

    Reply

  3. Posted by alan on September 24, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    In the example you give the writer is trying to claim an improvement or pleasure for you when there is only a change/chore suggested to be done for the convenience of the person or organisation making the suggestion – we can all quote many examples in the internet age, especially when a banking interface has changed for the nth time.
    I don’t know that this is any worse than the very common act of avoiding responsibility for onrs decidiond, in constructs such as:
    “I will have to ask you to leave”
    “Red wine has been banned from the living room”.
    Of course, there are statements of personal preference stated as if they are physical impossibilities:
    “I could never work on a zero hours contract”.
    However, the kind of thing that really raises my blood pressure is the failure to provide an an advertised service, folowed by the words “I am going to give the opportunity to…”
    Anyone over a certain age knows there is something wrong with this kind of language, but it usually takes a few more years to articulate exactly what is wrong. Perhaps there are some benefits to an ageing population after all.

    Reply

    • I can’t say I am too bothered by “I will have to ask you to leave” or by “Red wine has been banned from the living room”: they seem to me allowable euphemisms. Indeed, “Red wine has been banned from the living room” seems to me much more polite than “I won’t allow you to drink red wine here”, and “I will have to ask you to leave” is definitely preferrable to “Piss off!”

      “I could never work on a zero hours contract” is, I think, an allowable hyperbole, expressing strength of feeling.

      Reply

      • Posted by alan on September 29, 2014 at 8:54 pm

        I definitely prefer “I won’t allow you to drink red wine here”. I also think that there is a long slope between “I will have to ask you to leave” and “piss off” – I would prefer “I want you to leave”. Also, what for you is allowable hyperbole is to me an unwillingness to face a possible reality if the person saying it doesn’t start to face facts.
        I suspect that this illustrates a difference in temperament between us, but I also suspect that many people never reflect upon these constructions and I think it would be healthier if they did. I suspect they are often learned behaviours rather than conscious ones.

  4. The one that really annoys me at the moment is “reach out” – as in “thank you for reaching out to us” as an obnoxious and nauseating rephrasing of “thank you for your email”.

    “For your comfort and safety” is another pet peeve. It’s not the language that bothers me here, it’s that these words herald an announcement that some pleasurable activity is not allowed.

    And don’t get me started on “Oops!” when a web page or service isn’t available…

    Reply

    • I remember the late, lamented Keith Waterhouse once saying that every time he heard someone say”Have a nice day!” he felt like replying “I’ll have any kind of day I want, thank you very much!”

      I think we (and yes, I do include myself in that “we”) find it easy to use pre-fabricated units of language, as it were, rather than construct sentences from individual words. When phrases or expressions pass into common usage, they come to us all too naturally. How easy it is to say (or write) such pre-fabricated expressions as “for all intents and purposes…”, or “at this moment in time…”, or “for your comfort and safety…” etc. instead of thinking out one’s sentences from the basic ingredients, i.e. individual words.

      To give an example: i am currently writing my next blog post … on Caravaggio. And in my first draft, i had written: “Caravaggio’s paintings are theatrical in the best sense of the word”. But what does that mean? this is simply writing on auto-pilot. “..in the best sense of the word…” is one of those pre-fabricated phrases that are all too easy to use, and saves you from actually thinking about what you’re writing. Needless to say, it didn’t survive into the second draft.

      And I also think that people in corporate environments have become so accustomed to “corporate-speak”, they don’t think twice about using that language outside work.

      Reply

      • Posted by alan on September 29, 2014 at 9:10 pm

        Not being a linguist what I’m about to say is certainly pretentious. However, what are blogs for?
        I wonder if the use of expressions like “Have a nice day” are the faint echo of the subjunctive mood that is disappearing from English. I doubt that the people who used to say “God save the Queen!” thought that they were ordering God around.
        I only offer this because my vain attempt to learn another language has given me the first dim and tentative beginnings of an understanding of grammar – this is a late awakening for a victim of the English educational system.
        ¡Viva el Gove.

      • I think you’re right. “Have a nice day” is shorthand for “I hope you have a nice day”, and that really is quite unexceptionable. However, saying so doesn’t help enhance my grumpy-old-git image!

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