Q: Thanks for replying, Kel, and for not shooting the messenger! By the way, what about the increasingly annoying turn of phrase when it’s about, say, a boxing match, it’s Tszyu verse Mundine, for example. Marshall, The Gap, Queensland.
A: The sporting misuse of "versus" was begun by school kids at least 25 years ago because they didn't understand that "versus" is Latin for (roughly) "against" so they turned it into an English verb. I was contacted by a teacher from Perth around (as I say) 25 years ago to tell me the kids were doing this. They would say to him "who are we versing next week, sir?" What is disappointing (and alarming) is that grown-up, adult sports commentators are now doing it! This is how the language rots!
Q: I simply had to share with someone who cares (namely you) what I heard on the radio early this morning! Two female chat show hosts discussed what they were doing during lock-down. One said that she was doing puzzles. "Me and you like puzzles," she remarked. Well, that woke me up. To remember the rule about pronoun order I was always taught that the other person goes first, because it is simply good manners. Correcting that only, the sentence would say "You and me like puzzles." I was also told to check the first person pronoun is correct by taking away the first pronoun and the conjunction. Doing that leaves "...me like puzzles." Now, unless you are a two-year-old or Tarzan addressing Jane, it is obvious that the pronoun is the wrong one. Now, just so you know, I also like puzzles, but maybe in this new world of ours I should say "Me like puzzles too!"
A: You are spot on. Everything you say in your note is exactly correct. What the co-host should have said is "You and I like puzzles." This is basic grammar that everyone on radio should know. I wonder about the age of the speaker. Could she come from that age group that has been let down (in more recent years) by our education system that has failed to teach the tools of grammar?
Q: It seems some advertisers are using the expression “2 x” (2 times) instead of twice. For example Omo Washing Powder works 2x as fast as other brands. Why not say twice as fast ? Mark, Towrang, NSW.
A: I'm not sure why. I suspect that the marketing people have some research showing the numbers are noticed more than words. They tend to base most of what they do on marketing research.
Q: My neighbour and I are curious as to how the town Bathurst is pronounced some people emphasise the t others the urst please settle this argument as to the phonetics. Thank you. Sha, Lithgow.
A: The final "T" in "Bathurst" should always be pronounced. To leave it out or slur over it is just sloppy speech.
Q: Why is it that so many people have trouble pronouncing the word nuclear?George W Bush comes to mind. Also "recur" or "reoccur" -- which is correct? Len, Janalli.
A: The "nuclear" question is explained in detail on the history page of this website. Both "recur" and "reoccur" are real words listed in the dictionary -- "recur" tends to be used to mean "repeatedly", while "reoccur" is much less common and means something has occurred again.
Q: Kel, I enjoy your weekly chats with John Stanley, through 4BC. However, having taken pedantry to a new level to become a nark, might I bring to your attention your comment of last night on that program: "I personally..." (Good, better, best, never shall we rest...!) Marshall, The Gap, Queensland.
A: Thinking it through, I tend to use the expression "I personally..." when what I am about to say might be unpopular or a minority view. Perhaps I shouldn't. And the slogan Marshall refers to at the end of his note is an old one that our grandparents knew. In full it says: "Good, better,best -- never let it rest until you good is better and your better best."
Q: Irritating words: When people say "um" constantly during conversation. Very annoying but what is the origin please. Di, Ulludulla.
.A: Fear of silence. It's making to noise to indicate that the brain is going and a real word is likely to emerge soon. It is, as you imply, totally unnecessary -- people should not start vocalising until the brain has provided the content!
Q: Hi Kel, I hear you on 2GB with John Stanley & find your segment very interesting & am fascinated with the knowledge you have of the English language. My father was born in the early 1940s, he was always big on using rhyming slang. It took me a little while get the gist of what he was talking about. My father now in his 70s&myself in my early 40s it's not something I hear anymore the rhyming slang, my question is at what point in history did it come about?
Did it originate here in Australia or is it English? Phrases me father would use everyday were ones like, sky rocket is your pocket, Bob Hope was soap, not sure of the correct spelling of this but if I asked him how we were getting somewhere, he'd say shanks' pony which meant we were walking. Many other's he'd use but just curious of where the rhyming slang originated? Wade, St Helen's Park.
A: Rhyming slang seems to have begun in the East End of London. In fact it's often called "cockney rhyming slang" for that reason. The best evidence we have is that it started in the first half of the 19th century, so it was in existence by around 1840. It may have begun as a kind of "code" language so that only members of the community using it could understand. Lexicographer Terence Dolan believes it was originally invented by Irish workers who had moved to London. The Australian Language is the second largest repository of rhyming slang after cockney. I believe that is because the Australian Language has always loved words games and playing with words.
Q: Hi Kel. I have coined a new term for our current covid over reactions. I'm calling it "Covid-obsessive-disorder" Aaron, Wodonga.
A: Brilliant! It also tells us that our world now comes COD! And am I the only one who is now finding the nightly news on TV difficult to take because it is just one Covid story after another?
Q: Hi Kel can you tell me the correct use of the words 'lay 'and lie.eg I want to lie down or lay down. He is lying down or laying down. My mother who was very proper used to say only chooks lay. Is this correct English. Most people now say lay or laying. Sam, Brisbane.
A: Lie or Lay--this can be tricky and many people are confused. There are two verbs: (1) "lie" which means "to be in a horizontal position" and (2) "lay" which means "to set down, put in place". What causes the confusion is that the past of tense of verb (1) "lie" is "lay"--which looks like verb (2) "lay." So how do we tell the difference? Verb (1) "lie" is what is called a transitive verb-- that means that it always has an object... that is, there is always something that you lie down or lay down, e.g. "I lay the plank of wood on the floor." But verb (2) "lay" is an intransitive verb--that means it doesn't take an object. If you test a sentence to see if the verb has an object or not you'll know which of the two verbs you should be using. The two definitions that I've given can also help--although putting something in place and putting it in a horizontal position can look like two ways of describing the same action. I'm starting to think I haven't made this any clearer--so the present confusion among language users is understandable, and we shouldn't be too pedantic about it. Has this helped at all?
Q: The trouble with the evolution theory is that it just doesn't "stand-up" said the human to the ape. The ape replies; "Yeah you human beings are so lucky; not only were you created by a superior being, but you were given intelligence over all other living things, including me, and here's me continuing to suffer from a sore back after being bent over for
an untold number of years. The human replies; "If you like I could refer you to Doctor Darwin, the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin who is a genetic doctor and scientist involved in the human DNA – DO NOT ARGUE research and might have the solution to your problem". The ape responds; "Yes the only evolution revolution is in medical science, not in living evolution.
A: The problem with the word "evolution" is that it has not just have one meaning -- it has four different meanings. If that sounds odd, check out any dictionary and you'll find that quite a few words have a number of meanings listed.... meaning (1) meaning (2) and so on. When I did my master's degree critiquing Richard Dawkins' book "The Blind Watchmaker" I researched and identified the four different ways the word "evolution" is used. Some of those four meanings are not scientific at all -- just statements of a philosophical point of view. Sadly, the discoveries I made about the range of uses of the word "evolution" are still not recorded in most dictionaries. Ah, well, one of these days they'll catch up!