Forbidden words and other pet peeves!

Some recent snippets in the newspaper recently started churning ideas around in my head so, despite the fact that this is essentially a travel blog, I had to collate these thoughts and create a miscellaneous category. Maybe this will spawn some ‘pet peeves’ of your own.

Not long after starting high school my son had to write a field report for a geography excursion where they had had to analyse some soil samples. He wrote: ” I got some dirt …” I rolled my eyes with exasperation and said: “You can’t write dirt!  You need to make the language more sophisticated. Think of another word for dirt.” And so ‘forbidden words’ were born. Words such as got, dirt, thing, nice and a swarm of others that elude me at the moment were banned. Throughout their high schooling both my children were strongly encouraged to come up with more creative alternatives.

On 29 May, there was a letter to the editor of  The Sydney Morning Herald bemoaning the use of the word ‘gotten’.

Gotten wisdom

Why do so many otherwise erudite people use the Americanism ”gotten” instead of ”received” or even the old usage of ”got”? It’s not as if there is no other option.

Pat Berzin Culburra Beach ”

I cheered out loud. To me, this is the number 1 forbidden word. I have become almost phobic about reading books by American authors as I cannot accept the word gotten and have to think of a suitable substitute before being able to continue reading. Depending on how many times gotten is used, this can have a serious effect on the continuity of the story. The English language is so rich, drawing as it does from French, German, Latin, Greek and a smattering of other sources such as Sanskrit. Depending on the context, there is a plethora of words that could be ‘chosen but NEVER gotten’.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Column 8 has recently had a long-running discussion (rant) about ‘pet peeves’. Here are some of the submissions:

“Still, there are more pet peeves, jumping up and down and waving, thick as quills upon the fretful porpentine, hoping for a chance to appear in Column 8. We must don the hazmat suit and go on in.

Many people have written about the sloppy speech of politicians, setting aside lies, of course. Lisa Hannon of Gymea Bay is annoyed by ”politicians pronouncing ‘government’ as ‘guvvamnt’ ”. Phil Murray of Cardiff Heights chimes in to ask, nay, beg, ”our Prime Minister, Treasurer and Education Minister to stop saying ‘gunna’ for ‘going to’ ”.

There has also been much discussion about the colour maroon and the verb maroon, why people pronounce them differently and whether this should be a hanging offence.

Glenda Stankovic of Belrose says, ”I was always taught that the pronunciation ‘marr-own’ related to the colour whereas ‘maroon’ was being stranded on an island.” Whereas many other people, Column 8 included, were taught the opposite, that both meanings were pronounced ”maroon”.

Kati Ritche of a mobile telephone says, ”but it’s pronounced maroon because, as I understand it, it derives from the word ‘marrone’ (chestnut in Italian). That’s its colour after all. The other maroon presumably has some other root.”

A few other people have hypothesised that the ”marone” sound comes from the many Irish people who came to Australia, on the basis that if you say ”maroon” in a thick Irish accent, it could sound like ”marown”.  SMH 23 May


“Still the pet peeves come in, not in single spies but in battalions.

Gary Jackson of Georges Heights complains that, ‘‘Nobody listened when I first warned a year or so ago of the Sydney-wide adoption of the strange pronunciation of beautiful as beeee-YOU-tiful as if to describe a rapturous higher-plane experience of ineffable splendour. It’s moronic and must be stopped or it will destroy us all.’’

John Crawford of Mosman (Is it just Column 8’s imagination or is the lower north shore feeling particularly bolshie this week?) asks ‘‘Dear Column 8, while you are in extermination mode can you please add ‘congraDulations’?’’ Willingly, John, most willingly.” Column 8 SMH 23 May

I totally agree with John Crawford of Mosman, congraDulations drives me mad.

My pet peeves are the demise and near extinction, in some circles, of adverbs and the correct use of plurals.

Adverbs in particular have almost vanished, the use of the ‘ly’ ending is becoming rare. I regularly shout at the television when a sportsman is being interviewed, correcting his usage or rather non-usage of adverbs – and, yes, it is usually a man as it is most often a football player. This doesn’t mean that women are any better, just less frequently interviewed.

The use of the contraction there’s with pluralisation is rife amongst all echelons of society and I am noticing it more and more on TV, even by the reporters. This drives me crazy! There’s is the contraction for there is. You cannot say there is five people in the room, but there’s five people in the room would be commonly heard. There are doesn’t lend itself easily to contraction so the path of least resistance is taken and there’s seems to be becoming universal for both singular and plural speech.

For the final word on the matter Column 8 wrote this on 2 June:
” While on the subject, several readers over recent weeks have asked about the care and
feeding of the pet peeve, which come in many colours and are safe for kiddies. Column 8 has
already recommended that a peeve should be wrapped in a long felt want for winter. In
summer it can be sheltered under a shoe tree. It should usually be fed on fresh air and fried
snowballs, but if these are unavailable, try puftaloons or a little toast water.”



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