Save Our English


Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

Related Post Roulette

12 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

    — James Nicoll, May 1990, Usenet postReport

  2. Avatar CJColucci says:

    I actually prefer the other usages precisely because they are all rape, and the other usages tell us what kind of rape it is.Report

  3. Great piece Michael!

    (Although I heartily disagree with Twain on a couple points there.)

    It’s always puzzled me, that even as we coin words left and right, we seem to lack words for some concepts that desperately need them.Report

  4. Avatar JoeSal says:

    Excellent work Michael.Report

  5. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    I believe this is called ‘Weasel Wording’.Report

  6. Avatar Pinky says:

    I didn’t look into this too much, but it looks like every article about Ellis uses the same phrasing. This is probably one of those cases of follow-the-leader rather than excessive euphemism. Or, I guess, it was excessive euphemism on the part of the first reporter, then everyone else played it safe.

    I’m with CJ on this, to an extent. I don’t need to know the particulars about any of these cases except for the police officer “forcing women to have sex for their freedom”. That tells me about a double crime, the rape and the abuse of power.Report

  7. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses is one of the great essays on how not to write, another being Politics and the English Language. Its rules are

    Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    Never use a long word where a short one will do.
    If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
    Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.


  8. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Another example:

    “Police in Charlottesville, Va., say they have arrested a 17-year-old male in connection with a threat that ‘contained vile, racially charged language targeted African-American and Hispanic students’ at an area high school.”

    Threats are “racially charged” instead of “racist”?Report

  9. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Think about how awful it would be if German were the master language. Every new concept would have to be “einen beitrittvielevörterbedeutung.” (A joining of many words to create a single meaning.”)Report

  10. Avatar InMD says:

    This was a good post and I agree. Corporate America is just as responsible as the bureaucrats. Instead of agreeing people ‘align.’ Instead of meeting people ‘circle up.’ It drives me insane and I hate it.Report