Monday, September 20, 2010
How Jennifer Aniston and friends have led us to sloppy speech
I read through a list of 50 examples and realized I was falling into the traps by the time I reached example number one. Only the other day I used the phrase "guys" to a group of women.
Norman isn't kind to America in apportioning blame for this slackening of the good old Queen's English.
'Like most infuriating words and phrases, this comes from the U.S., mainly through the dippy-matey atmosphere of TV’s Friends," he says of "guys."
There are many more crimes we can lay against the door of Friends but I won't go into that here. But maybe if it had never existed I wouldn't be forced to read dull headlines about Jennifer Aniston every time I stand at the supermarket check-out.
On the subject of supermarkets Norman mentions the habit cashiers have of asking. "Do you need a bag?" which he says is shop checkout staff’s automatic question to customers with numerous purchases and no way of carrying them.
This is obviously a British thing as US supermarkets aren't so obsessed with the environment. Cashiers all ask "paper or plastic?" but they don't send round Mike Tyson to rough you up when you inevitably opt for plastic.
However, I am constantly bemused and befuddled to be asked in stores "did you find everything?" which warrants the obvious reply "if I hadn't I would have asked before checking out."
America is probably also to blame for the widespread use of the word "issues." The term "I'm having issues or an issue" has come to replace problems and has jumped over from the therapist's couch. It's common knowledge that all Americans have a personal therapist and a mobile one if they are on the road.
The phrase "I'm good" is also an Americanism. I haven't quite slipped into this one yet but have retreated somewhat from the proper response: "I am very well, thank you," so I'm clearly on a slippery slope.
Cool and OK are now so enshrined in Western culture as to be incapable of extraction from our mangled language. On the issue of using the word "cool" over the age of 30 in a built up area after dark I am guilty as charged and need to be taken to a place and told to "get a life." I also wear dad jeans.
Lately I have also found myself using number 47 on the list "heads up" as in "I thought I'd give you a heads up, that this will be published etc." I can blame America for this one. I'm not even sure what it means but wonder if it's obliquely linked to the toss of a coin.
According to Norman, Friends, or maybe we should call it Fiends, is also to blame for the widespread use of "can I get?" which has replaced "please may I have?' in coffee joints etc. I'm possibly guilty on this one but I also point the finger at the servers as accomplices. Something nonsensical I've noticed recently is the phrase: "What can I get you started on?" that is asked in restaurants and coffee joints. It merits the reply. "I don't just want to start it. I'd like to eat the whole meal, thank you very much."
It's like when a waiter asks me: "Would you care for a roll?" I'm so tempted to quip back. "Yes bring me one and I'll care for it all night. I'll provide a rounded education and child support before I devour it."
Fortunately for the rest of my dining experience I usually meekly respond: "OK - thanks."
I'm certainly thankful for Mr. Norman for making me aware of some of the linguistic traps I wasn't even aware I was falling into. I'm a happier bunny today for reading this. And I don't find myself saying that often about the Daily Mail.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1313561/Im-happy-bunny-And-PHILIP-NORMAN-whos-modern-phrases.html?ito=feeds-newsxml#ixzz1037siZVZ