David Worboys – Do I Make Myself Clear

Many of us regard Trump as pants (meaning useless) and Johnson as toast (meaning finished off). And so, our language evolves.


“Trump doesn´t do embarrassed”. Most of us know that this more or less means “Trump never becomes embarrassed”. But it is one example of the grotesque mutilation of the English language over recent decades. Languages should evolve naturally.

In the fifties and sixties, like everybody else I knew, I enjoyed reading books. I loved the English language as it was written by the likes of Hardy, Hemingway, Orwell – and Agatha Christie. And as it was written in the more mature press and spoken by most radio and television presenters.

Care was taken over spelling and pronunciation; likewise, vocabulary, punctuation and grammar. Attention was paid to parts of speech, tenses, moods, cases, active and passive voice etc. We learned declension and conjugation.

We had to know when to use “due to” and when to use “owing to”. Likewise the subtle distinctions between “agree” and “concur”; “forgive” and “exonerate”.

Nowadays, nouns are used as verbs as in “He trousered ten grand”, and adjectives as adverbs, as in “She hits the ball so aggressive” (Eurosport).

Today, the language is becoming more and more misused. And not only by the less literate. I reach this conclusion by listening to people on television, including presenters, reporters, newscasters, politicians and business leaders. I notice reports and  articles in the press, including readers´ letters and advertisements.

During a recent tennis commentary, the normally competent Tim Henman said “He had to make him play another shot”. What he obviously meant was “He should have made him play another shot”. But just this month I have noted some more obvious examples.

She was like “How do you know?” “The preparation is what we prepared for.” (Emma Hayes, Chelsea Manager). “Could have been done a lot quicker.” “It comprises of three stages” (Wikipedia) “Luton look more stronger.” (BBC). “He must be prepped by now.” (Sky News). “He insulted my wife and I.” “They should of known”. “It´s so yesterday!” “I was laying on the beach”. “It was such a phenomena”. “We went to Tesco´s”. “Each of them have a motive”. “I had to repeat it again”. And there are many more. For any of these misdemeanours at school I would have got at least a hundred lashes.

So what? If we can communicate and understand each other, does it matter? Well, as with many things in life, it´s a question of taste – a question of choice. An Aston Martin will get you from Nerja to Malaga, but so will a thirty-year old Ford Escort. A fine seafood platter may be accompanied by a Puligny-Montrachet – or a Lambrusco. Does our language not deserve a little care in its usage – at no extra cost?

One of the delights of the language is the introduction of humour in new words and phrases, such as “Trump is pants” (useless) or “Johnson is toast” (finished). This is very different from the careless examples above.

Mayor of London and prospective Conservative candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Boris Johnson, after winning the seat during the General Election count at Brunel University, London.

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Written by

David Worboys

Offering a unique insight into everything from politics to food to sport, David is one of the Euro Weekly News´ most popular columnists.