Watch my language

Posted by HC in Language on 12 July 2008

I am on the look out for misuse of words and grammar. It was a pleasure to find Bill Bryson’s very good literary style books (they are his only interesting output, surely?).

Years ago I used to think Kingsley Amis was tiresome with his anxieties that English as she is spoke and writ was going to the dogs. What a lower middle-class anxiety that was, I thought. And all muddled-up with academic snobbery. Now, I want to avoid my own outbreak of middle-aged grumpiness by getting my irritations of my chest. I shall only remark on the bad habits of broadsheets. I don’t want to take cheap shots. Here’s a couple for starters. Oops. “Here are a couple…?”

(1)   ”Fed up of”
This is very awkward. There is no reason why one should not be “fed up of” things, any more than that one should be “tired of” them. But, sorry chaps, the habit of saying one is “fed up with” things is simply the habit of people who care about language.    

“Had of….”
Lots of speakers who should know better use: “If he had of gone to Rome” instead of “If he had gone to Rome”. They are probably sloppily carrying on from the feeling that, “He would of gone to Rome” is as good as, “He would have gone to Rome”.

A reader challenges me that he doesn’t believe I could have seen this usage in a broadsheet. I agree that I haven’t seen the former, but I swear I’ve seen the latter. (Can’t remember where though. Damn it.)

“He use to..”
I saw this the other day, as in “He use to go to town”. Of course, this might be a sub’s typo (and missing “d”) rather than someone phonetically taking sloppy speech into sloppy writing. “He used to go to town” is an odd usage, for sure. I suppose it’s an elision or an elipsis or an eliding of “He was used to go town…”.

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