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'Words can't describe how grumpy I've become'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

Why the long face? Peter Hall fears he may be turning into an as grumpy an 'old' man as comedian Arthur Smith, pictured with equine friend

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Am I becoming a Grumpy Old Man, joining the greying geriatric ranks of Will Self and Arthur Smith?

The television series was revealing and entertaining, throwing up opinions with which I agreed far too readily, identifying exactly "where they were coming from".

It is a worrying thought, the probability of turning into a curmudgeon – and it shouldn't really be all that inevitable.

But the years seem to gallop past, the hairline recedes... and retirement beckons, possibly.

Now, I find, I am becoming increasingly illiberal in my views, hating political correctness, which seems to be out of control – even advocating a return of the death penalty for murder. (But what if they got the wrong bloke? The reality doesn't bear thinking about).

There are so many little, niggly things that aggravate me for no real reason: men who wear suits without ties, (it seems so arrogant of them), officious landlords who don't allow civilised spaniels into their public bars – surely better than mewling babes who are now given ready access, and the self-righteous parents who think they can inflict the said babes on everyone else.

But it is in the written and spoken word that I have really found issues, and sadly journalists are as guilty as everyone else. Don't they teach grammar, spelling, syntax and punctuation in schools any longer? Apparently not.

Every day I drive to work past a business that professes to sell "baged" gritting salt for roads. I long to bring a little pot of paint with me to put it right.

Estate agents have been perpetrators of appalling jargon for a long time, not just hyperbole about the properties they are trying to sell. Have you noticed how they add "ing" on the end of many words? They have "fencing" and "guttering" and "walling", which strikes me as quite unnecessary when fence, gutter and wall are perfectly adequate.

It's easy, and probably accurate, to blame the social media, public-relations people, politicians and Americans for the degeneration of "English as she is spoke" and I try, diligently and earnestly, to correct where I can, when it is translated into print.

For example, is it sexist to talk about a chairman or a chairwoman, rather than a "chair", which is an inanimate item of furniture unable to conduct meetings? Of course not.

If you bear with me, gentle reader, I shall trot out a whole tranche of howlers that get right on my box.

Top of my list is "set to" which seems to mean "due to" but doesn't, actually. Then there is "train station", an Americanism that has taken the place of the perfectly good "railway station", and another from across the Atlantic, "going forward" instead of "in the future".

There is nothing wrong with "proven" as an adverb, though it is often misused these days, particularly in adverts, when "proved" would have been correct.

Politicians, who talk regularly about "I will do something or other", when they mean "I shall", have also taken to using the word "deliver" instead of "provide". For goodness sake, they should leave delivering to postmen and midwives.

While I am all for local dialects, we have the North of England to blame for the increasingly invasive "sat" where it should be "sitting" and "stood" where it should be "standing".

Finally, a major bugbear: "looking to", used almost universally instead of "seeking". All darned annoying. Since 1979 the Plain English Campaign has made enormous strides forward in unravelling the gobbledegook of bureaucrat-speak, helping officialdom talk and write in English that is easily understood.

But there is still a long way to go, right throughout society, without necessarily infringing regional accents and idioms, which should, indeed, be encouraged.

Ours is such a marvellous language, it really does deserve better treatment from us, the English.

That is the end of my Professor Henry Higgins lecture, at least for the time being.

So am I becoming a bigot and a pedant, or have I already got there? If I have, I remain unashamed and unabashed.

Just don't get me going on the EU and the machinations of its overpaid and profligate bureaucrats, BBC interviewers with inflated egos who are more interested in their own opinions than in those of their victims, or Alex Salmond and his campaign for Scottish independence from the rest of Great Britain. It's good to fire off a salvo or two before riding off into the golden sunset.

Perhaps I should do it again?

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