Q: Hi Kel, My son Tyler, an Aussie lawyer working in US, drafted an agreement that included the words "...shall expire at the end of each calendar year and be forfeit by the employee."
His boss insisted he change 'forfeit' to 'forfeited'. Tyler and I then debated the respective usages and were unable to conclude a correct form, despite reference to dictionaries from both sides of the Atlantic. Tyler's problem was use of what seems a past participle in relation to a future state. I wondered if we might impose on you for some guidance that might assist a young lawyer and an old painter. Thanks & Regards, Steve, Currumbin Valley.
A: For reasons which I have never been able to fathom American English does not have the past participle of a number of verbs. If you refer to a coat that you tried on in men's wear store by saying "It fitted well", an American (making the same statement) would say "It fit well." In that case the past participle seems not to exist in American English. From your note I take it that the same applies to the verb "to forfeit." What your son wrote was correct grammar in both British and Australian English. It is called an anticipated past participle. It anticipates an action and the consequences that will have arisen from that action. What you son's boss said is grammatically correct in American English. I think that is what is going on here.
Q: In my office, there is split conjecture on the use of "next" when referring to the days of the week. For example, let's say today is Tuesday, and i schedule a meeting for "next" Friday, some of my colleagues read this as we are meeting in 3 days time, the other staff know this is "Friday next week". I've also seen this get quite confusing on, say, a Monday, and someone will say "next weekend" for me, the weekend coming is "this weekend" with the following being 'next weekend". Please help with correct terminology. Rob, Casino.
A: You are not alone. I have often had calls on talkback radio putting exactly the same issue. "Next" has been part of our language since the days of Old English (Anglo Saxon) and its literal meaning has never changed -- "nearest / closest to hand." So when, on Tuesday, you say "next Friday" you are saying the nearest Friday, the closest to hand -- the Friday that will come after three sleeps (as the children say). It cannot logically mean anything else. The people who put it a week further away are misusing the language. However, I have to add -- good luck in explaining this to them!
Q: Hi Peta, I am writing to you with a word that you might like to get Kel to look into. I first heard it on "Spicks and Specks" on the ABC with Adam Hills when it became a new segment/round in the panel game -- mondegreen. Paul, Karabah.
A: "Mondegreen" is the name for misheard song lyrics. The name was coined by Sylvia Wright, in an article called “The Death of Lady Mondegreen”, in Harper’s Magazine in 1954. It appears she had as a child misheard the last line of a famous old Scottish ballad called The Bonny Earl o’ Murray (sometimes spelled Moray) and thought it went:
Ye Hielands and ye Lowlands,
O where hae ye been?
Thay hae slain the Earl o’ Murray,
And Lady Mondegreen.
“How romantic to have them both die together,” she thought, and was bitterly disappointed when the last line turned out to be the much more prosaic: “And hae laid him on the green”. However, she turned her disappointment to our benefit by changing her elegant-sounding mistake into a truly aristocratic name for the whole class of aural misinterpretations. See the book by Gavin Edwards, entitled “ ’Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy, and other Misheard Lyrics”, published by Fireside in 1995.
Q: Agreement or agreeance? Geoffrey, Caringbah.
A: I have always believed there was no such word as "agreeance." I was wrong. Doing some research I discover that "agreeance" is Scottish, recorded from as long ago as 1525, and is an exact synonym for "agreement." Mind you, it is still a word I would never use.
Q: (1) Kel, following on from the use of the word 'jab', this was used by Queen Elizabeth in her speech on the vaccine, given in February. (2) Please settle "different FROM" and compared WITH" for me. My father was insistent on this usage rather than "different TO" (I shudder at the American "different THAN") and "compared TO". On looking up Fowlers some years ago I was distressed to find that "TO" was equally acceptable in modern English. Call me a language Luddite, but I believe that my father's teaching was much more elegant. Your opinion, please. Barry, Quaker's Hill.
A: (1) Yes, as I told John Stanley, I've changed my mind and now approve of "jab." (2) The grammarians used to tell us to say "different FROM" and "similar TO" (while the Americans said "different THAN"). However, as Fowler notes those rules no longer apply. Sadly.
Q: What is the origin please of the words ""Giddy-up"". They were usually spoken by a young child sitting on a pony to get it to move forward. Dennis, Woolaware.
A: This is an American colloquial expression, and is said to be a colloquial corruption of "get up" -- the way an American cowboy might urge his horse to get going.
Q: Where does the word parliament come from? Rob, Conangamite, Victoria.
A: This is another word you can blame on William the Conqueror and his Norman nobles -- because it came from Norman French, and from a French word meaning "discussion" or "meeting." Behind it is the French word for talk "parlez" -- so a parliament originally was a place where people met to talk.
Q: (1) I said "often" sounding the t. My ex said I was wrong & nagged me till I stopped sounding the t. Which is correct? (2) Also, something that really annoys me is when people say "a group of people that gathered", instead of "a group of people who gathered. Janice, Andergrove.
A: (1) The standard British pronunciation of "often" is with a silent "T". In America both pronunciations are used -- either sounding or not sounding the "T". The Australian pronunciation generally follows the British. (2) Yes, you are quite right. People are "who" not "that."
Q: I live in Orange, our local Botanical Gardens are signposted "Botanic Gardens" which annoys me. I would have thought that the word used is an adjective, so ends in 'al', that 'Botanic' seems to be a new word created by whoever ordered the signs. I also feel that there are less people who I can have this discussion with as most of the younger generation aren't that interested in correct language usage. Part of the enjoyment in reading, whether it be literature or scientific writing is in details of good use of language. I am concerned that the current generation, who are disinterested in language, are that way because they do less reading. If the trend is for less engagement in serious reading, that leads to higher ignorance levels, people are then more susceptible to deception, and who knows where that might lead us. Brian, Orange.
A: I agree with your frustration, Brian. Unfortunately, the Oxford English Dictionary says that both "botanic" and "botanical" can be used as adjectives (with the same meaning). But your basic principle of reading good prose in order understand how to use words well is a point well made. But it doesn't have to be too "serious". For my money one of the greatest prose writers of the 20th century was P.G. Wodehouse -- and he is hilariously funny at the same time!
Q: (1) Have you noticed that in the media there are those who are stumbling over the two pronunciations of the word "frequent"? Two different pronunciations and two distinct meanings? (2) The same goes for so many two syllable words depending whether they are being used as a noun or a verb, eg "convert" and "convert". It seems to me that in the U.S. only one pronunciation is used. (3) What also irks me is the way Chile (pron. chilly) is being referred to as Chile (pron. chilay). Are you also irked? (4) A final question: if a person that comes from Burma is Burmese, what do we call a person from Myanmar? Graeme, Greenacre.
A: (1) They are two different words: a stress on the first syllable gives us an adjective that means "often"; while a stress on the second syllable gives is verb meaning "to attend." (2) Again, yes -- you are quite right: stress the second syllable and you get a verb meaning "to change"; stress the first syllable and you get a noun meaning "that which has been changed." (3) The problem is when people decide they will show how smart they are by using the local pronunciation of a place name. When I was a member of SCOSE (the Standing Committee on Spoken English) at the ABC our rule was that if there is an established English pronunciation for a place that should be used instead of the local pronunciation. The problem with people want to go local with "Chillay" is their inconsistency -- they should also (to be consistent) being pronouncing "Paris" as "Paree" and "Munich" as "Munchen" and so on. (4) No idea!
Q: The new pandemic is MISANDRY -- the ABC is a cesspit of systemic MISANDRY. Why does this word get so little airtime ? Surely Peta Credlin and Tony Abbott should have used it as a retort to Julia Gillard. Kel, introduce it as a freebie on Peta Credlin's show. My general question: If you do not know the words can you experience the emotions? Neil, Brisbane.
A: Yes, you've got your language quite right. Just as "misogyny" means hatred of women so "misandry" means "hatred of men." I feel sorry for my little grandsons who are growing up in a world that believes in "toxic masculinity" -- which is, surely, an expression of unfettered misandry! And people who have never heard the word "misandry" can still suffer from misandrist attacks.
Q: A friend uses a phrase which I don't quite understand and he pretends he does and I hope you can throw some light on the background etc, I get the gist of the usage though.
Now, I'm not sure I have it exactly right so, here goes. When I ask him, how are you? He sometimes replies: "If I was any better, I'd be a twin". What do you know about this one? Bryan, Kellyville.
A: This is a new one on me. I take it he is saying that he is fit enough for two people. Or something along those lines. I'll do some more research.
Q: I would be honoured if Kel could correct people in the use of the word "I instead of the word "me". Too many people I hear keep incorrectly using the word "me " instead of "I" - eg Taller than me, Older than me, instead of Taller than I (am) and Older than I (am) etc etc. Would appreciate if Mr Richards could confirm that (I) should be used instead of (me) and therefore educate the thousands of people in the process. I humbly, in the interest of correct English usage & grammar, request Kel to explain this on his Credlin segment. Thanks heaps. Tristam, Ferny Hills.
A: What I have done often over the years in many broadcasts is to give people a simple test to discover if they are getting this right. The test is this: leave out the other person and see if the statement still makes sense. Is "Peter and me went to the movies" correct? Leave out Peter -- "Me went to the movies" is clearly wrong, so the statement should be "Peter and I went to the movies" (since leaving out Peter and saying "I went to the movies" is clearly correct). If I get the chance I will look for the opportunity to explain this again.
Q: What is the origin of the expression "flat chat." Robert, Corndale.
A: It is one of a number of similar expressions that mean "travelling fast." "Flat strap" and "flat out" are others. They seem to have originated in horse racing, when on a speeding horse the jockey would lower himself to be almost flat on the horse's back. This particular one "flat chat" seems to have survived because colloquial English loves expressions that rhyme -- so they are remembered and re-used.
Q: Regarding "--ize" vs "--ise": I remember being taught in the 60's, that certain words such as authorize had more strength than using ise. We had civilize not civilise. Now everything is ise. People now say, you are spelling it the American way, but my English friends use both. I prefer ize to ise, but use ise if I want to feminise the word. Any thoughts? Regards Kent, Surfers Paradise.
A: In Australian, as in British, English it is possible to use either in the many verbs with that ending. In American English the standard spelling is "--ize." In Australian English "--ise" is more common (even though there is no rule requiring us to use it). Fowler has a good suggestion. He says that if we apply "--ise" to words of two or more syllables, then only one word is left with an "--ize": spelling: capsize. But there really is no rule, so the National Union of Pedants (an informal movement to which you and I belong) can remain relaxed about this.
Q: Hi Kel, I love your segment on Credlin. I have a question please: “Social Distancing” The term seems so wrong but I wonder who came up with it? Michael, Wingello.
A: Good question. I'll include it my compilation of a Covid vocabulary (see the comment below) and publish it here on this website.
Q: Do you know the meaning of the word shericking . I t was to do with a woman going of at a man in an argument. it was common in England and Scotland in the 30s . 40s and fifties when I was growing up. Men were actually terrorised by it happening to them. Maybe another spelling? Albert, Weneddourie.
A: This is news to me. I'll do some research. Watch this space.
Q: Hello Kel, thank you for answering my 'piles' question, it wasn't a flippant request
believe me - even if John did sound a little queasy. I was wondering if you might compile a COVID vocabulary, for example words like cohort I reckon I've heard used twice in my life previously, a lockdown used to be ordered after a gaol riot and a super spreader was a contraption my grandfather hooked up to the tractor to spread super-phosphate! Keep up the great work, regards Karen, Myrtleford.
A: A Covid vocab is a great idea. I'll do some wort on it. Stay tuned!
Q: I find - “returning back “ used very frequently, Kel. Rather annoying! I enjoy your time on 2GB. Carmel, Marsfield.
A: Yes, it's a silly tautology. "I am returning..." or "I am going back..." are both good English. "I am returning back..." is not. Perhaps the problem is to put the brain into gear before engaging the mouth!
Q: When or where did "barreling along" enter the language. Not heard it used lately. John, St Huberrt's Island.
A: It's an American expression, coined in the 1930s meaning "to move quickly." Before that the verb "to barrel" meant "to pack into a barrel or barrels." So where did the connection to movement come from? I suspect from how quickly barrels roll. If you've ever seen barrels being rolled down a slope into the cellar of a pub, you'll know how quickly a barrel can roll once it's got started. Originally the American expression was applied especially to motor cars -- and it was born early in the motoring era. The earliest quotation is from 1930 when car ownership was just starting to become widespread. My guess is that "barreling along" was coined to try to name the fastest form of land travel that had yet been invented. And, yes, you're right -- like a lot of colloquial expressions it seems to have become old fashioned and faded away.
Q: I love the English language and hate to see it murdered on so many occasions. I refuse to text messages as I feel that it is helping to destroy our language as we know it. Anyway the word haitch for aitch really annoys me and the expression 'so fun'. Why on earth do we follow America? I also hate the word 'gobsmacked'....i know it's a legitimate word, but sounds terrible and I will never use it. Leone, Darling Point.
A: Keep treasuring the English language! It is, as I so often point out, the language of Shakespeare, Milton and Dickens. We have been handed down a precious treasure -- and we should care for it well, and hand it on in good shape to the next generation.
Q: Hi Kel, I listen to you each week on 6PR with that larrikin Tod Johnston. I thought I would write to you to get some clarification on phrases Tod quite often uses so I can find out where they originated and in fact if Tod says them correctly. (1) The first one Tod says is: "In and Around" I haven’t heard anyone else use this. (Isn't everything either in or around something?) (2) The second one Tod says is: "In the Course of Time" (I thought it was "Over the Course of Time"). (3) The third one Tod says is: “Bum Steer”. Where did that one originate from? (4) And finally a friend quite often says, "It Cooks my Crump" Any idea where this one originated? Brent, Perth.
A: (1) "In or around" is a not uncommon way of giving an imprecise identification. I've heard this one before, and I think it's okay. (2) Yes, I do think "over the course of time" is a clearer way of expressing that idea. (3) A "bum steer" means incorrect information. This is American in origin (although common in both Australia and New Zealand). It may come from an old sailor's joke about how hard it is to steer a boat backwards. Boats are designed to move forward, bow first, not backwards (stern or "bum" first). (4) This is a new expression for me. Never heard it before. I suppose it is an expression of surprise. I'll do some research.
Q: Hi Kel, I have two word allegies: (1) So many radio and TV presenters have stopped using the word "are" and instead are using "is" even with plural subjects, e.g. "There is lots of reasons" . They haven't forgotten the word "were" just "are"! (2) Listen to how many people use this amazing word : WAYSHAPEORFORM, e. There's no wayshapeorform I would admire such use of our language! Elizabeth, Woollahra.
A: (1) I believe we are seeing (or hearing, more likely) the products of a generation of teachers who were not taught (and did not understand) the basics of English grammar. Several decades ago the teaching of English descended into a swamp called the "whole language" approach in which the rules (the tools) that make English work well were not taught. We will pay this price for some years to come. (2) This is a well spotted cliche. And people resort to cliches when they can't be bothered to find better, clearer, words to express their thoughts.
Q: Hi Kel, Heard you with John Stanley the other night. (1) “A” before words beginning with a consonant, “An” before words beginning with a vowel is not “A” “U”niversal rule used in “A” “U”niversity!!! Is it “A” “U”nique rule? Or “A” “U”talitarian convenience? (2) Help please…
Are there rules for use of, or differentiation in meaning between / betwixt? and among / amongst?? Colin.
A: (1) "Universal" "university" and so on are not SAID with a vowel sound first. Despite their spelling they are PRONOUNCED with a consonant first: they begin with the sound "Y". Even though they are spelled with a vowel first, we SAY them as "Yuniversity" and so on. So the "a" / "an" rule still applies. (2) The Oxford English Dictionary says "between" and "betwixt" are exact synonyms -- as are "among" and "amongst".
Q: G'Day Kel, I wonder if you've heard people say "intregal" instead of "integral"? It really grates on me that one. I guess it's just laziness, it seems easier to say it that way.
And I've noticed a habit creeping in, especially with Australian Radio Announcers of giving Aussie websites as ending in .com.eu instead of .com.au. Once again, maybe laziness, but one particular Melbourne afternoon/drive announcer is guilty of this and should know better. We are not part of the European Union. Thanks Kel, Ian, Glenn Innes.
A: The confusion of the "a" and "e" sounds is not uncommon in Melburnians. The problem with "integral" is that there is no "R" in the middle syllable. Some people make the mistake of spelling it "intergral" -- and then making a mess of how they say it. The word "integral" comes from "integer" (meaning "a whole, or a whole number"). People forget that and stick an "R" in the middle.
Q: When did New South Wales become "New South Warles?" Gladys Berejiklian isn't the only one using this modified pronunciation. I also heard an ABC presenter using this strange pronunciation. Also, increasingly I hear the letter "E" being pronounced as an "A." No doubt this is part of a further Americanisation of the Australian accent as more and more people learn to speak via the internet. Robert, Corndale.
A: The issue of pronunciations came up a lot last night in talk back chat on radio with John Stanley. And some of the changed pronunciations (such as "noos" for "news") I find irritating. I haven't noticed the one you are pointing out here -- but I will listen for it, and see if I can pick it up. Now, it is possible that the Australian accent is in a state of change -- and that our grandchildren will end up speaking with quite a different accent than the standard "middle Australian" accent that you and I employ. If so, I feel that would be a loss -- but our language is a living language, and so some change is inevitable. I suspect that Americanisation is not the only influence here. Perhaps (and this is only a suggestion) the high level of immigration experienced in Australia since the end of Word War II has had an impact. Perhaps there are a lot immigrant pronunciations of the Australian language that are now becoming mainstream. I'm not sure. I would like to know what others think about this.
Q: The word shone, what is the proper pronunciation? English "Shon" American "Shone"? Linda, Millicent.
A: Do Americans really pronounce "shone" as "shown"? The correct pronunciation is definitely "shonn". Cheers, Kel
Q: What has happened to the verb “lie”? Most people seem to have replaced it with “lay”. It really grates with me when someone says “lay down” I feel like saying “I will have to pluck a duck to get the down to lay it.” Peter, Forresters Beach, NSW.
A: The problem here is as follows. Leaving aside the verb to "lie"(1) which means "to tell an untruth", the confusion comes from the fact that "lie"(2) means "to be in a horizonal position" while "lay" means "to put, or place, or set down" BUT "lay" is also the past tense of the verb "lie"(2). That is what baffles most people. As well, people can be confused over the nature of the action they wish to name: am I putting something in a horizontal position, or am I setting it down in place? And it is possible that (sometimes) the answer is -- both! Unconfusing people on this might be a bit difficult!
Q: Why do Americans say "the body was drugged up the hallway" and we would say "dragged ". Which is correct? Sarah, Stanthorpe.
A: This another interesting example of Americans using an older form of English that has ceased to function in mainstream English. This sort of thing happens when a language group is cut off from the source of the language. Canadians in Quebec (for example) speak an older form of French than that spoken in France. After the American war of independence the United States was cut off from the the source of its language -- Great Britain -- and kept using old forms of some words that dropped out of use back in the home of English. "Gotten" is an example. It sounds odd to us today, but in the 17th century it was standard English -- and it survived in America. The same is true of the verb "drug" meaning "to pull forcibly, to drag." This was part of standard English from around 1250. But it dropped out of mainstream English and is now described by the Oxford as "rare" -- but it survived in America.
Q: Hi Kel. Where does the saying eating 'left overs' originate? Mike, Cronulla.
A: "Left overs" have been part of human culture for as long as humans have been eating. The expression is a literal one -- naming the food that is "left over" when we have finished eating. We needed a name for this food because for most of human history most people could not afford to waste food. Before the invention of the refrigerator preservation of remaining food was as much a part of the culinary process as preparation. Cookbooks would often follow directions for a meal with some instructions for pickling, curing, or salting the remaining food (the "left overs") to prolong the life of all ingredients. And Australians have coined their own expression for left overs -- YMCA (Yesterday's Muck Cooked Again!) Cheers, Kel
Q: Hi Kel, My father used to say some phrases that I partially understood but didn't know the back ground. 1. To play someone off a break. Which I take as being able to easily beat someone at something. 2. You can't put brains on statues. Meaning someone is stupid or unteachable.
3. Scotch Mist. Which I think meant zero, nil, or rare as hen's teeth. I really like hearing you on 2gb but don't always know when you are on. Regards, Michael, Seven Hills.
A: The last question first: I am on 2GB (and 4BC, 2CC and the Nine Radio Network) every Tuesday night after the ten o'clock news. (1) "To play someone off a break" comes from snooker. A game begins with the "break" -- the first stroke that breaks up the cluster of balls. If it is a good break, and leads to sinking a lot of balls, then from the first stroke you have taken the lead over your opponent. (2) "You can't put brains in statues." This is one I have never come across before! But I think it means what it appears to mean -- just because someone looks like a human being it doesn't mean they will have the brains to behave like that. (3) "Scotch mist" means something faint and insubstantial but that still gets in the way and clouds a person's understanding (from real Scotch mist -- a fine drizzling rain common in the Scottish hills.
Q: Why would Combank, use the word 'Veridian' as a major product name when their 'livery' is black/ gold ,I thought Veridian is pale green. Maybe they use it in the form that describes ,"Old or Withered" being facetious. Raymond, Trinity Beach.
A: Yes, it is a puzzle, isn't it? "Viridian" comes from a Latin source word viris meaning green. This is presumably a name worked out by a marking consulting company (at great expense to Combank) based on focus groups and hours of brain storming sessions. Or am I being unkind? Is this use of a fancy word for green based on the most famous currency in the world -- the American dollar: the "greenback"?
Q: Why is Canberra pronouced Canbra? And why is Wagga Wagga pronounced Wogga Wogga? Barry, Kingsgrove.
A: (1) The national capital should not be pronounced "Canbra". Yes, it sometimes is, but that is just vocal laziness. The "e" in Canberra should be sounded in the shortest of vowel sounds (not stressed) -- but sounded none the less. (2) The "a" vowel is not always sounded as "a". For example, in the word "watch" the "a" vowel is sounded as a short "o" sound. The same happens in Wagga Wagga.
Q: Dear Kel, I love listening to your media presentations! It seems to me that the Australian English language is being subverted. For example, the letter "e" appears to be morphing into the letter "a", e.g. the word "health" is so often these days being pronounced as "halth" and the word "eligible" becomes "aligible"... Not to mention my favourite, "demand", that becomes "demarnd" this corruption appeared around the time of PM Julia Dullard... sorry, Gillard.
This begs the question, the next time I might go to the shops, will I visit the "barnk" to obtain some "carsh" to spend at the "barkery"??? I realise that our language is a "living" language and evolves, but to me, these changes are just laziness and poor education and represents a loss to Australia! Perhaps my age is showing... nearing sixty years of age... Keep up the good work!
Yours, in anticipation of your next appearance on the airwaves. Dale, Batlow.
A: Confusing the short "a" and short "e" sounds seems to be regional. It has long been more common in Melbourne than elsewhere. (They used to collect record "elbums" in Melbourne.) I once joked that if ever "Allan" married "Ellen" in the southern city it would be totally confusing! That other change -- pronouncing some short "a" vowels as "ah" vowels -- is English and has long been common among people either from the UK of who have been influenced by Oxbridge pronunciations.
Q: Hello Kel, Love watching you on Sky News. My question is not so much an Aussie word but here goes. I collect bookmarks, usually free ones, that have no real monetary value but I heard there is a word to describe people who collect paper items of no value. Can you help. Margaret, Narre Warren, Victoria.
A: I have been unable to track down such a word. However, I also collect bookmarks. So is there a word for that? Well, not so far. But I could try to coin a word for book mark collectors. How about -- "biblioskopeologists"? That's putting together from the Greek roots for book mark... what do you think?
Q: The one nation name is a joke and yes we are all indigenous to our country of birth. When I was young my father used the word "autochthon" pronounced "Au-tok-thon to indicate the original inhabitants of a country or place. You don't hear it any more but is an alternative to aborigine which is not liked because in Australia it was abbreviated to the derogative "Abo" and used as an insult. Tony, Woody Point, Queensland.
A: All very true. And "autochthon" is a great word. I just looked it up in my full Oxford. It is a rare but useful word. However, are there any people alive today who are "autochthon"? The great poet, the late Les Murray, used to say that today's indigenous people should acknowledge their forgotten white ancestors. An interesting thought.
Q: With the greatest respect to you, I can only hope that one day you will go 'ON AIR" and get FAIR-UP the media presenters on radio and TV. Their use of our English is becoming in-
tolerable. Here are some examples: reguly, particuly, VUNerable. 'Ay' instead of 'a'. Even Scott Morrison has said AYnuother ! Channel 10 news reader uttered AYgain. AY this and AY that. Not Aussie at all. News presenters don't seem to realize the difference between HYPO and HYPER thermia. It goes on . . . AN Horiffic accident. AN Historic event. So, if I fell from AN horse would I go to AN hospital? My spell-checker is going crazy, Kel. THERE'S used for a plural subject instead of there'RE. eg. There's so many items. Politicians Umming and Ahh-ing their way through a comment. It appears that to become a Media Presenter, one has to have FAILED English.
Why do presenters say "Welcome back" after the ad.break. WE never bloody left, Kell !!! Rusell, Mango Hill, Queensland.
A: I agree. (See my comment below.) Back when I started in the media, there was training in how to construct and pronounce the language we were using. Skilled people (the great Arch MacKirdy was one of them) trained generations of broadcasters to respect the language and respect the audience. I just don't hear that in the latest generation of media workers. Very sad.
Q: I find it cringeworthy when people mispronounce words and don't realise how silly they actually sound. Another habit people have is over pronouncing words by adding extra letters to a word that is not necessary for eg; adding "--ality" or "--ism" to the end of a word that doesn't need it like people are in to a dreadful habit of saying "normality" instead of "normal". Another irritating habit is the way people add tree on to a word thinking they are trying to save time , as in military pronounced as millertree or battery pronounced as bat-tree , I don't have any of these trees growing in my back yard. I think due largely to people teaching at schools who are in to these belligerent habits are passing those habits on to students leading to a level of laziness with the English language any literacy within the education system. Anyway if I think of more of these habits I will be happy to pass them on. Shayne, Muswellbrook.
A: Not only has the education system let these people down, I think the media has. There was once a feeling that we had to keep up a certain standard of pronunciation and good grammar in the media... but now, this latest generation seem to believe that such attention to detail not needed. Mind you, I might just be showing my age. Perhaps I've now turned into a grumpy old man.
Q: What is the origin of the word English? Francis, Seddon.
A: It comes from the name of a Germanic tribe called the Angles. Members of this tribe, together with surrounding Germanic tribes such as the Saxons, invaded the British Isles in the 5th and 6th centuries. They displaced the Britons (Celtic tribes) living in the south and east of Britain and came to dominate the island nation. Collectively they were called Anglo-Saxons. They were still the ruling peoples when the Norman French successfully invaded in 1066. And the language they spoke was called "Anglish" or "English."
Q: Regarding political taxonomy, I have long been trying to identify myself and now realise I lie in the node where classical liberal, conservative and libertarian intersect.
As for the question of compulsory vaccination, my attitude is that each adult individual must be accorded respect and left to decide for themselves if they want to get vaccinated. If you choose to take a vaccine (as I do), you are protecting yourself and therefore don't have to worry if others choose not to. You have done what you can to protect your own health. Those who choose not to be inoculated must accept the risk of not doing so. I have always believed in taking responsibility for one's own actions. Geoff, Oatley.
A: Yes, I agree. But there must (surely) also be a way for people who chosen vaccination to know when (or whether) the people around are non-vaxxers who might pose a threat. Carrying a "vaccination passport" could also be voluntary -- and us vaxxers could choose to go to the restaurants the promise us only passport holders can dine there. Or is that being unreasonable?
Q: One topic I'd love you to address is the acquisition and use of vocabulary. Many people have a shrinking vocabulary or tolerate the shrinking of the language. (I do acknowledge that a shrinkage in the use of classic words is often accompanied by an expansion in the use of newly coined terms). I have always considered myself fortunate in being born into an English speaking family because the language is so rich. With its large and varied vocabulary, one can express oneself very precisely. Geoff, Oatley.
A: Interestingly, studies have shown that there is a close connection between the size of vocabulary and reading. Those who read little have smaller working vocabs, those who read a lot have much bigger vocabs. So although most English is spoken and heard (rather than written and read) the reading component is the key -- and we need to encourage our children and grandchildren to be readers.
I am no linguist and do not have a particularly deep knowledge of the language, but there are times when I despair at the contraction of English.
Q: Regarding pronunciation, I am always hearing the words "particuly" and "reguly", even by the Prime Minister! Also, are young school kids being taught something so basic and important as to correctly pronounce the letters of the alphabet? I hear Australia often being pronounced (and at least by one young lady news reader) "Ustrullia"? (the u as in run), and is your radio station "taow jay bay"? ! I have heard some really awful pronunciations of the word home, e.g. "hauime" and "hime" (one lady politician in particular). John, Windso.
A: There is not a lot I can add to your complaint -- yes, you are right, there is a great deal of what I would call "verbal laziness" these days. But remember that many decades ago the word "Australian" was collapsed into a single syllable "strine." This is nothing new. Sadly it is beyond the power of all of us to correct!
Q: Why are medics called Doctor? Seems that may people (dentists, opticians, vets as well as medical practitioners) use the title when, the way I see it, a doctor has a doctorate (Phd) from a university. Charles, Blacktown.
A: The word "doctor" means learned -- someone who knows a great deal in any branch of knowledge. That is still reflected in PhD degrees. But as long ago as the 15th century it became common to use "doctor" as an honorary title for medical practitioners because of their knowledge of medicine and healing.
Q: Dear Kel, was listening to your segment on 2GB last night. (1) I had a Manager in the CBC Bank who inquired how I was, I replied good thank you. He told me a lady never replies good thank you and the reason why. From that day back in 1979 whenever asked, I always say well thank you. (2) I hate the way the word lady is never used these days. Using "woman" instead sounds cheap and nasty. (3) My last peeve for the evening, Debra Knight saying good and well. I was taught well and good, between you and I, which is correct. Thank you for your entertaining show with John Stanley. Regards, Janette, Illawong.
A: (1) The word "good" has been objected to on the grounds that it is a moral judgement, and "well" is a better response because it reports on your current state of well being. And this should apply to gentlemen as well as ladies. (2) "Lady" was banished by the feminists decades ago when they would angrily respond to anyone who called them a "lady" by saying "I'm not a lady, I'm a woman." (3) Yes, "well and good" is the standard form, and it is a bit odd to reverse it.
Q: A colleague always says "Thanking You" when selling to a customer. Is this an acceptable form of "Thank You" ? Is it an Australian term (I'm from Canada) ? Thanks, I enjoy your work. Betty, Seven Hills.
A: It is used in Britain in the same way. It seems to have come into vogue in the late 19th century. By using the present continuous form of the verb it seems to be announcing what it is I (the user of the expression) am doing. I suspect it is falling out common use these days, as it sounds a bit dated or even a bit formal.
Q: Hi Kel, my question is where did when you say goodbye the reply id "Whoroo" it drive me nuts...perhapes I will understand better if I know its origins. Chris, Adamstown Heights.
A: This is one of a very large number of expressions that began as shouts to attract attention in the open air -- "hurrah", "hurray", "huzza" and a bunch of others. They all have a similar structure verbally. Interestingly they seem to exist in related forms in a number of European languages. Sometimes these were expressions shouted on the hunting field to gain the attention of other riders. One expert thinks this word group might have started as the battle cry of Prussian soldiers. But, however this word group began, the words it produced developed over the years and found different uses. Here in Australia the "hoo roo" version was often used just to say "goodbye." Although, Aussies often drop the first "H" and say "oo roo."
Q: Hi, Kel. Here is a good one. You're a card. Meaning a character, funny, etc. Where did it startm Glenn, Oak Flats.
A: It's one of a number of expressions that come from playing cards. This is recorded from 1835. Each playing card was seen as having its own value and character, so (originally) it meant someone who has a distinctive character was "a card." A little later it came to mean someone who was eccentric, or ingenious, or clever, or witty was "a card" (it often meant the joker in the pack). It was used this way by Charles Dickens in 1853 in "Bleak House."
Q: I wrote a text to you on 2GB. I think the meaning was lost when it was read out. When “the” is used before a noun starting with a vowel I surely it should be pronounced “thee”.
I have a beef with how it seems to be acceptable these days to say “tha” apple when it should be “thee” apple. Our language becomes more choppy and in my opinion it dumbs down the language. I have even heard the use of “an” as in “an apple” is disappearing. I’ve heard “a apple” said. I guess we just have get used to this as acceptability is governed by usage. Greg, Glenorie.
A: Yes, I did misunderstand your question last night. And you are quite correct. The final vowel in "the" lengthens from the very short sound (called the "schwa" sound) to a long "E" sound when it precedes a vowel. I haven't notice "a" replacing "an" before vowels -- but I take your word for it. However, although usage determines many things I'm not quite ready to give up on the most simple rules of syntax. We need a new generation of English teachers in our schools who have been properly trained and understand our language.
Q: How should Australians pronounce HURRICANE. As a kid I learnt HURRI -CAN. I hear most of the current generation saying HURRI- KANE ... which I think is the American pronunciation and it upsets me. Mike, Glenmore Park.
A: What you were taught as a child is correct. The final syllable should be short not long. Anyone who wants to KANE the HURRI-CAN should be carrying an American passport!
Q: Good afternoon Kel. I enjoy your input with John Stanley on Tuesday nights on 2GB. It is refreshing to hear your passion for language and for getting things right! I share your passion and hope you continue to inform and educate those of us who would like our grandchildren to learn spelling and grammar (as we did) and to have an ability to read and appreciate fine literature. My question to you is as follows: I hear with increasing frequency on radio and TV, for example, "I didn't like it as much as WHAT he did". The comparison with the inclusion of "WHAT" is surely not necessary? I would be grateful for your comments. Thank you. Gillian, Baulkham Hills.
A Thank you for your kind words. It would be possible, I suppose, to replace the words "what he did" with the phrase "his actions." So, why does this not happen? The answer has to do with idiomatic English. Idioms are those turns of phrase that are used repeatedly and become the standard way of expressing a particular thought. One of the reference books on my shelves is a dictionary of English idioms designed for students learning English as a second language -- learning individual words alone is not enough: it is also necessary for them to learn the common phrases that are used (repeatedly) to express certain ideas. If, as I think, this phrase has become idiomatic English it will not go away. We must just grin and bear it.