The dictionary allows an infuriating misuse of language

The dictionary allows an infuriating misuse of language, writes Christopher Howse. The Daily Telegraph

They are running short of onions in Bihar, the Indian state justly famed for the quality of its alliaceous ‘‘ I used to buy three kilograms of onion for a week,’’ a housewife told The Times of India, ‘‘ but now I have cut down to one kilogram because the price has almost tripled’’ . And how did the paper headline this news? ‘‘ Skyrocketing onion prices bring tears, literally!’’

An exclamation mark or screamer is generally a sign that the little joke being made is not one that the author is terribly confident will be spotted by the reader. But what of the literally? Continue reading

Best try to get a word in sideways

Best not try to get a word in sideways

July 15,  2013


<em>Illustration: Simon Letch</em>Illustration: Simon Letch

A writer in these pages recently used disinterested when he meant  uninterested. A sports journo used bunker down when should have used hunker  down. Another local, arguably less criminally but no less offensively, used  cheater when cheat is the preferred noun, at least in this country.  Another  writer defended his use of butt naked on the grounds that it was now in common  usage in Australia.

These are professional Australian writers. Their use of these words does not  reflect the evolution of our language. Rather, it’s an infection. Our language  is picking up viruses which our current crop of antibodies seem incapable of  detecting or correcting. Buck naked picked up a particularly insidious virus  which was left unchecked and now appears to live safely in the bloodstream of  our language Continue reading