By popular request (well, one) and as I have nothing interesting to tell you about my dull writing life, today I’m going to deal with a couple of crimes against the English language.
First, the widespread confusion between ‘enormity’ and ‘enormousness.’ Actually, the confusion is now so prevalent that in thinking I can do anything to salvage the situation, I may be whistling Dixie. But here goes.
Enormity has nothing to do with physical size. Rather it’s a measure of moral offensiveness. There’s nothing neutral about enormity. It’s a strong word and always, always negative. You may speak of the enormity of a crime but not (no matter how much it appalls you) of your waist measurement. Enormousness is about size, but it’s an awkward word to write and to say, so let’s use something else instead. Vastness? Yes, that’ll do.
People may advise me to let this go. The ship has sailed. Languages shift and change. I know, I know. I play with language myself, though mainly with my inner circle. Why only this week I coined the word ‘floppitude’ which seemed perfectly to describe a friend’s state of exhaustion.
Much as they irritate me, language crimes committed by newspapers don’t qualify as enormities, but it’s Friday and I’ve got nothing much on for the next ten minutes so I may as well get it off my chest. Regrettable news-speak fashions come and go. Last year ‘iconic’ got my award for the most overused and misused adjective in the British press. I don’t see it so much now. ‘Showcase’ is definitely the verb du jour, almost always applied to some gym-honed part of a celebrity’s anatomy. Abs are showcased, as are pecs and post-baby bodies. When I see the word, I ‘showcase’ my disdain using my middle finger.
And finally (for today) there is the verb ‘to pen’. No normal person uses it. Missives are penned, and so are tomes, but only in the minds of journalists desperately trying to elevate their language with fancy flourishes. If I were a newspaper sub, ‘pen’ would get the blue pencil treatment every time. Oh, and so would ‘abode’ but I’ll save that for another day.
What are your bugbears? Don’t pen me a missive. Just write and tell me.