Simon Heffer

Scarcely English

Scarcely English

An A to Z of Assaults On Our Language


The English language has evolved throughout its history, and usually for good reasons. However, in recent years, egged on by social media and the ubiquity and velocity of the internet, it has been subject to some grave assaults. There appear no longer to be any rules, in an era when, thanks to the web (another word to have changed its meaning) everyone can be a published author, completely unedited and unregulated. This often has dire consequences for the English tongue.

Simon Heffer's A to Z runs though a whole litany of common confusions ('flaunt' and 'flout', 'imply' and 'infer', 'uninterested' and 'disinterested'), unidiomatic English ('fed up of', 'focus around', the use of 'impacted' in such construction as 'the loss impacted him badly'), and lazy expressions (these days every extended activity is an '-athon', every scandal is a 'Something-gate'). It bemoans some truly awful neologisms, 'infotainment' and 'funwashing' among them. And it registers the horror of those of us who do not believe that you can answer the question 'How are you?' with the words 'I'm good'.

Trenchant and sprinkled with dry wit, Scarcely English is both a chamber of horrors of bad and lazy English and a plea for accuracy, clear thinking and elegance.

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