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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Do we have to talk like this, "people"?

Good call.
Awesome.
That sucks.
Yay!
Let's do this.
Stay safe, people.
Freaking.
Fail.

Thanks to Twitter and Facebook there aren't many days that go by without my having to read one of those eight expressions. Why do I find them so irritating? It's partly because they sound as manifestly false as Steve Maclaren's Dutch-inflected English. It's mainly because they are all deliberate overstatement and I don't like to see spoken English, which quietly prides itself on selecting the word five degrees below the emotion in question, go in that direction.

Flavours of yoghurt are not "awesome". "Let's do this" implies an act of physical courage, not a trip to the multiplex. "Good call" should announce a decision which could have had dire consequences, not the choice of a pop record.

It seems particularly inappropriate to hear this kind of wild overstatement employed by a generation whose knowledge of human extremity hasn't gone much further than a Glastonbury lavatory. Contrast this with the Edwardian actor Ernest Thesiger who survived the battle of The Somme. Since that battle must have been "a mixture of surprise and fear", he would have been justified in using the word "awesome". Instead, when he was asked what it was like he reputedly said "oh my dear, the noise, the people!"