Muphry\’s Law strikes again!


France\’s new education minister has become a national laughing stock after he handed out a document on how to tackle poor spelling which was full of mistakes.

Muphry\’s points out that any attempt to correct the spelling or grammar of another piece will contain further errors of spelling or grammar of greater magnitude than the original.

Works in French as well as English.


Staff at the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission have been advised to use \’miserable day\’ instead of \’black day\’. The Commission claims that certain words carry a \’hierarchical valuation of skin colour\’.

Look, it\’s one thing to be so hopelessly PC as to invite the ridicule these people are going to get.
It\’s quite another to quite so hopelessly misunderstand the colloquialisms in your own language.
\”Black\” has entirely another meaning in Irish slang, it\’s nothing to do with skin colour. In Irish American it refers to the celtic (ie, dark haired) phenotype but in Irish Irish (umm, Irish English) it more often means \”protestant\”.

Terrible English

Gosh, there\’s so much here:

Teachers need to do more work to improve children\’s vocabulary and make it clear when the use of slang and colloquialisms are not acceptable, academics have found.

That is, do not let it all hang out as everyone\’s been told for the past few decades. There is a formal language which needs to be known as well as the regional vernaculars.


With older children, chief examiners have revealed a growing tendency for pupils to lapse into the vernacular in exams scripts, using slang and inappropriate expressions.

Slang and the vernacular can be extremely powerful in a piece of writing. Although, to be fair, it\’s a bit like playing music exquisitely badly: you\’ve got to be able to do it properly before you can play around with the rules and know just where to go wrong.

Perhaps I\’m a tad touchy on this point….my own writing uses the vernacular and I deliberately try to use speech patterns rather than more formal styles (at least, my own speech patterns which are in themselves more formal than most).

They give us an example of the inappropriate use of the vernacular in an exam answer:

\”Hamlet is a laid back mummy\’s boy who needs to move on.\”

Err, actually, that\’s rather more cogent than tens of thousands of heavyweight tomes that have been written on hte subject.


but the fact of course remains that there is no such thing as a ‘government-funded charity’; the new and politically correct term is ‘quango-with-a-licence-to-beg’.

Bravery Awards

Some people don\’t get it, do they?

Helen Reynolds, a health and safety officer with Lancashire Constabulary, said that the current phrase, which praises officers for acting “with no thought to his or her safety” should be toned down.

She suggested changing the words to "fully recognising the risks to their own safety".

Speaking at the conference of the Association of Police Health and Safety Advisers in Cardiff, she said: "We need to recognise the bravery of these officers but we also need to emphasise the importance of keeping them safe.

"Safety does not prevent them from doing brave acts."

Bravery is, by definition, doing things that risk your own safety to achieve some other goal.

The view from Austria

"We had great times here. There were artists and writers all around. Great parties. They\’re all gone now," says the former communist. "Now half the families in my block are immigrants. They can\’t speak German. They can\’t even speak English."

Slightly odd final line, no?

Or is speaking English really that much of a marker of modernity?

The latest PC nonsense

Report here about the latest list of do not and must use words. For example, we should not use "seminal" or "disseminate" as these are rooted in "semen" and thus are sexist.

The full list is here.

To be honest, the full list isn\’t all that terribly bad. It\’s certainly better to have people muttering dimly about whether to use "black", "African Caribbean" or "Afro-Caribbean" than it is to have them debating whether to use "nigger" or "kaffir".

There is however a problem with some of the terms….and I mean a real problem, not just look how we can laugh at these silly sociologiests. That is that some of their insistences actually lead to a loss of meaning, a shading of distinctions.

"Wheelchar bound" should be replaced with "wheelchair user" for example. But the two have different meanings. Bound implies no choice, user implies choice. That granny using her electric scooter to run over your toes on the way to the shops is a user, but she may well amble, perhaps somewhat slowly, around her won home. Oscar Pretorious might use a wheelchair at times but he\’s certainly not bound to one.

Similarly, "mute or dumb" and "speech impaired person" are not synonyms. The latter implies impediment, the former complete incapacity.

For most of these things I don\’t in fact mind: if the sociologists are wasting their time on drawing up these codes then they\’re at least not doing anything more dangerous. The new phrases very quickly pick up the implied meanings of the old anyway, once they\’ve bedded in. But when they trample all over one of the glories of the English language, our ability to make very fine distinctions, then they do need to be resisted.


Now I really, really want to understand this: I would like to get inside the head of that person – that self-important, officious nebbish of a council official – who actually believes that these are appropriate uses of the anti-terror legislation designed to prevent mass murder.

Great to see the word "nebbish" being used here. There are a number of possible meanings, putz, twit, self important git, but none of them quite capture the full meaning.

It was once explained to me thus: someone with so little personality that when they leave the room you feel as if someone has just entered it.

The Problem With the Police

They appear to be run by aliens, ones with only the most tenuous knowledge of the English language:

Peter Fahy, head of race and diversity, said: "Having listened to the British Association for Women in Policing it was clear many forces wanted to produce a better uniform themselves. It is at that level that the proposals need to be trialled."


Competition Time!

It\’s Wednesday. Hump Day. So a competition is in order I think.

Merriam Webster is a publisher of dictionaries and reference books and as part of their annual PR campaign ("Buy your three year old daughter a dictionary for Christmas" type thing) they release a list of "Words of the Year". This year\’s number one word is "w00t". OK, so far so fun.

Now, our competition is to try and get their list of ten words into a sentence. You\’ve got to get all ten words into one sentence, it has to actually mean something and extra points are awarded for it being amusing or crude (more for both, of course). I have of course stolen this idea from here. My own entry into that last competition is here.

Arthouse Snuff Movies for the Welsh.

"Do stop being a flibbertigibbet, cease this persniketty kerfuffle, your plethora of expressed discombobulations questions the value of our art, the serendipitous juxtaposition of love unrequited and the onomatopoeiac smack as our callipygian actress lands after her defenestration will win our film a multitude of awards."
"Well, yes," said Dai,"but look you, all I want to know is why is it my sheep that has to jump out the window, see?"

As you can see, you\’re allowed more than one sentence, it\’s just that all of the target words must be in one.

This years\’ ten words are as follows:

1. w00t

  1. facebook
  2. conundrum
  3. quixotic
  4. blamestorm
  5. sardoodledom
  6. apathetic
  7. Pecksniffian
  8. hypocrite
  9. charlatan

You can put your attempt into the comments here or at your own blog, if you have such. The winner will be chosen by acclamation from the crowd. And yes, there will indeed be a prize. Probably a copy of a book I\’ve been sent for review….the winner can discuss exactly which one with me after winning (there\’s a couple of possible choices). Closing date, sometime on the weekend….

The Apocalypse is Nigh


"Taking the example of the Local Employment Partnerships, claims of indirect discrimination could arise if the effect of these was to encourage employers to employ less migrant workers and more people on benefits, who by virtue of the rules on benefit entitlement might be more likely to be British," the study states.

That\’s a study from the House of Commons Library.

As to the basic point, of course what Brown is suggesting cannot be done for we cannot distinguish between UK and EU citizens. Not allowed to.

Still should be fewer though.