Category Archives: English 101
Words and usage in the English language
They’ve also challenged us to describe our local watering hole in 150 words or less, stating the reasons that keep us going back, sooooo I wrote a poem. No one said the competition entry couldn’t be in poetry… then again, none of the other entrants has waxed lyrical about a pub throughout their entire entry. So far, that is. The closing date is Friday 25th July, so perhaps there’ll be more poems by then.
Below you will see my entry, referring to Gordon Ramsay’s Warrington Pub, which is located altogether too close to our home. I love it there. It has an amazing polychromic front porch decorated with stunning art nouveau tiles, and a beautiful old double-sided bar in carved mahogany. Thank heavens it didn’t go All Bar One on us. We should treasure our old beauties like the Warrington. There’s altogether too much sanding of pub floorboards going on.
Before you find out what the competition prize is, I must now subject you to my first ever attempt at poetic pub reviewing:
The No-F-Words Warrington
The Warrington Pub down on Warrington Crescent’s
The local I frequent for R ‘n’ R.
The specialness lies in its Olde Worlde presence –
So different from cloned and identikit bars.
Last year it closed for some renovation,
As stellar chef, Ramsay, acquired the deeds.
For patrons whose interest is mastication,
The Warrington’s back feeding everyone’s needs.
It hasn’t gone posh with pretentious infection;
Builders swig next to the girls wearing Choos.
The staff will advise on your beverage selection
Whilst fielding your questions on Big Gordon’s news.
From dressed Cornish crab to a Casterbridge Ribeye
The Warrington should seldom disappoint.
The fishcakes are gourmet, they surely ain’t Birdseye
And old-fashioned bar snacks help add to this joint.
The only thing marring my Warrington visits –
A lack of expletives directed at chefs.
The atmosphere calm, there are no flying trivets
Or verbal abuse freely peppered with effs.
THAT’s precisely why I decided to enter this competition. I’ve always wanted to travel by airship. There’s something so Indiana Jones about it.
This is for the people I know who’ve lost close ones in recent weeks, and for all those who know what it feels like to lose someone. WARNING: do not read without kleenex to hand.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.
To find out more about the poem’s attribution and history, please click here.
Recently, I started a list of funny euphemisms that pass my way. It’s amusing to see how far humankind will go to make something icky or uncomfortable sound not so bad.
Dear friend, The Wise Woman of Wandsworth, is always ‘washing her cat’ when she wants to turn down an invitation. (Odd that she has yet to own a cat to wash.) If we really don’t want to do something, we say that we’d rather ‘stick hot needles in our eyes’ but that sounded a bit painful, so we’ve changed it to ‘undergoing heated ocular acupuncture’ and may just have invented a whole new holistic experience.
Regarding body parts, there are front bits, lady lumps (for some reason this reminds me of marshmallows) and IT Guy recently said that something “gets on my…um…pecs”. Nice save.
Then there’s the expression ‘farting with confidence’ which anyone who’s ever had a touch of Delhi Belly will understand, as in: ‘He’s feeling much better and can now fart with confidence’.
Whilst on the topic of powdering one’s nose, The Wise Woman calls this ‘rinsing one’s fingers’. “Excuse me while I rinse…” she’ll say. It’s gone into our lexicon and has even rubbed off on Well Spoken Friend who chortles about the rinsing phenomenon every time we meet up, just at the point where someone excuses themselves to go to the loo. “Are you off to rinse?” he’ll laugh. It’s impossible to be discreet. In the interests of variety, perhaps we should take a leaf out of Dr Seuss’s book and say we’re ‘going to the euphemism.’
Today I lied so I could leave a meeting. It was a presentation by a company competing for our business against a number of their major competitors and the competitors win hands down. This particular presenter was affable and would be good company if you wanted to go and have a pint or two in the pub. Sadly, that’s not why he was here. Presenter was not very good at explaining his company’s technology or answering our questions. After one hour of brain strain, i.e. straining the brain to keep focussed as opposed to wearing it out, I excused myself, citing another (imaginary) meeting as the reason. There weren’t even any real buzzwords to keep me (silently) entertained. Just a half sentence that never closed: “Now let me take you to 30 000 feet and…” And what, I never found out. The mind boggles.
The good thing about today’s meeting is that it prompted me to look up my buzzword notes from the last presentation I went to. It was buzz-tastic. It opened with “We want this to be an interactive discussion rather than one giant brain dump,” Okay, then. ‘Brain dump’ on its own was bad enough, but qualified by ‘giant’ made me want to heave.
Birds were next. “We can search for ‘penguins’ or we can search for ‘black and white flightless birds’. The penguin results may not show up other black flightless birds, but the black and white flightless birds search will certainly show penguins.” I pinched myself to make sure I was still there and not in some zoology lecture. We covered ‘silos of information’ as opposed to silos of grain. That one works. We learned that Deloitte Touche has implemented a system whereby any e-mail containing a swear word will be stopped from leaving the company (they need to read my Alternative Swearwords blog and implement it into company policy), and that rather than ‘new generation technologies’ we are now into ‘next generation technologies’. During the presentation we were ‘open and transparent’ about our needs and aimed to ‘work together seamlessly.’
The presenter on that occasion really struggled with his buzzwords, though. It was obvious that someone had told him he had to use them to be current, so he made the odd mistake. The best of these was telling us “you don’t work in a 24 by 7 business”. As our business happens to be construction, this immediately conjured up an image of a 24 by 7 piece of wood, just like a 2 by 4 plank only much, much bigger. I stifled a giggle.
The best reference, however, was this: “We have one platform for all functions. We are no Frankenstein’s bride.” I’m lost with this one. Did he mean that he isn’t a mate for the original? Or that he’s not a scientist’s creation? They’ve stumped me again.
I don’t really like to swear but sometimes I find myself possessed by a demon with Tourette’s causing a few choice words to exit my mouth. Usually the result of surging female hormonal activity or stress in the workplace, such moments even take ME by surprise. I knew it had to stop and the problem certainly improved, as soon as I chose a lexicon of alternative swear words.
The one I use most often is “farts”. The tube is delayed? “Farts.” A meeting’s cancelled? “Farts.” I jam my finger in the door “Smelly farts.” It may not be the most elegant of words, but it works for me.
I’m certainly not alone in using alternatives to the fruitier words of the English language. Tintin’s friend, Captain Haddock, survived his most annoying moments by shouting “blistering barnacles!”, so suitable for a man of the sea, and Raymond Briggs’s Father Christmas got around on his sleigh, saying “blooming this,” and “blooming that” rather a lot.
At work, a colleague exclaims “ooh, my sainted trousers,” or “big, fat pants,” when she is surprised or irked by something. If the problem is worse than usual, it may extend to “big, fat, smelly poo pants”. Graphic, maybe, but very effective without having to resort to any of those unseemly little four-letter words.
Alternatively, a rather well-bred friend prefers to swear in foreign tongues, so his expletives will generally involve “merde” or “scheisse” of some description whilst another pal quotes Father Ted’s “arsing tarts” and “arse biscuits”. Deee-licious.
Here are a few links to places where we can jazz up our daily usage of expletives in the English language without resorting to inane profanity:
Shakespearean Insult Generator
Blackadder Insult Generator
There’s also plenty of nostalgia to be had with the following:
From our American friends: cripes alive, tarnation, heaven’s to Betsy, jiminy cricket, darn, jeepers, Holy Cow, heck, fudge, shoot, Great Scott
From Ye Olde Blighty: crikey, balderdash, my word, heavens above, blimey, blooming (blimmin’) heck, blasted, piddle, poo, bugger, botheration, bollocks, frigging, feck
However, if this is all too much like hard work for you, perhaps you have a confirmed profanity problem. If that’s the case, watching South Park is always good for updating your profanity and insult lexicon and if you’d like to interact with like-mouthed individuals, there are on-line swearing groups to join. Meanwhile, I think I’ll just stick to saying “farts”.
It astounds me how many people use buzzwords these days. I can understand (to a point) the necessity of industry-specific jargon, but what on earth does it mean when someone says “I’ll cold towel those documents and get them to you later,” or “he’s just had a brain dump,” A ‘brain dump’? You have to be kidding. Just what sort of person thinks the usage of this term is anything less than crass? I have an image of a smelly item squeezing out of a cranium, no? Perhaps I’m simply not hip enough to get it.
My boss talks about ‘blue sky thinking’, then laughs. Neither of us knows exactly what it means, but presume it’s something to do with positivity. Thankfully, Boss shares my frustration with the cool language that floats around in meetings and was amazed when I told him about Boardroom Bingo, the game where a different buzzword fills each square of a bingo board and you mark them off as you hear them spoken in meetings.
We now collect buzzwords in the office and a group of us use them as often as possible because it makes us giggle. A typical exchange might be:
A: “I’m off to a meeting now,”
B: “Well then, let’s get your rocks of that runway and clear it for take-off. I sure hope those 404s don’t car park your new strategy.”
A: “Yeah, we’re ready for any potential blamestorming from those idea hamsters. Perhaps we can get a chainsaw consultant to uninstall them before they cause us any more salmon days.”
How about this?
“I’m having a non-proximity distance issue with a vital file for that meeting.” (In spite of its total pomposity, I can’t wait to use that one.)
This is pretty bad, too:
“How about putting a couple of slices of bread in your intellectual toaster to see what pops out?”
In structure it reminds me of:
“Let’s put some milk in the cappuccino machine and see it comes out frothy.”
Funnily enough, some buzzwords that were new to us 8 years ago, are in common usage now:
“They’ll work on it 24-7,”
“He’s been left out of the loop”
“It’s a complete no-brainer,” and
“We’re being proactive, not reactive,” If we’re honest, we all use them, and they’ve probably made it into the O.E.D.
So what are the latest buzzwords buzzing around right now? See The Buzzword Dictionary at http://www.buzzwhack.com, a website ‘dedicated to demystifying buzzwords’. It would seem that I’m already a ‘buzzwhacker’, ‘cos I whack the hell outta them there buzzwords. So proud… But I still don’t know how to ‘cold-towel’ a document. Damn.
There are certain words that have the ability to make us cringe in the same way that sounds make us recoil when listening to a dentist’s drill or nails being dragged across a blackboard. At work, a group of us compare notes on Vile Vocabulary from time to time. So far, one person absolutely detests the word ‘pamphlet’. We all think that ‘moist’ sounds rather unsavoury, and the word making us heave today is none other than ‘chunks’. Putting the three together in a cohesive sentence, we’ve come up with :
‘I’m picking up moist chunks of pamphlet.’ Hmm, what superb imagery.
In relation to another Vile Word, someone recently told me that a friend’s mother thought she was really hip when she said “he’s a real see-you-next-Wednesday!” The daughter had to explain that the saying is actually “see-you-next-Tuesday,” and why.