Tag Archives: language

Angry Sub-Editor: America versus Britain

Angry Sub-Editor: America versus Britain.

I enjoyed this post from Angry Sub-Editor. If you care about language, you might want to follow his blog.

We all know that US and UK English often have different words for the same thing (gasoline v petrol, sidewalk v pavement, etc). The global presence of American entertainment means that people in the UK are familiar with most of them, and some American words are commonly used in the UK nowadays (so ‘movie’ seems to co-exist quite happily with ‘film’). Others, such as ‘furlough’, didn’t survive the Atlantic crossing, while many Britons have never even heard of ‘maven’ or ‘hazing’.

But there is a more select group of words that mean one thing in Britain and another in America. It’s as well to be on your guard if you don’t want to be misunderstood.


Screen Shot 2012-12-23 at 14.19.38


I think the English language is now comprehensively broken. There’s no point my railing against it any more. It is busted, kaput, knackered, failed, conked out, beyond repair. It has reached the point where the mechanic has sucked his breath in through his teeth, whistled and shaken his head sadly.

When I hear pre-planned (planned planning?), pre-prepared (preparing to prepare something?), pre-ordered (you order something, you reserve something, you don’t order something before you reserve it … ARGH!), my head does backflips. But pre-used is a whole new pre-order of pre-mangled language.

Pre. Used.

Think about it for a second. I think they mean it’s second-hand. It’s used. Someone has already had the pleasure of using this unit. But if it’s pre-used, surely that’s brand new, never been out of the box, unopened? If it’s pre-used, it’s never been used. It’s… Wait… Um…

Sorry. I think my brain just melted and dribbled out of my left ear. Has anyone got a cloth?

King Ell

Dear Subjects,

I object to apostrophe misuse in my realm. If you feel the way I do, next time you spot an errant apostrophe please email an image to kingell@barries.net. I will fix it as soon as I can. Sadly, the error won’t be corrected in the real world, but at least you will gain immense satisfaction when the misplaced and missing apostrophes you’ve found are put right on here. You can also click the ‘Shop’ link above, to show your support for the King.

via King Ell.

A worthy cause. I hate to see apostrophes abused.


This has been bugging me for a while. I don’t know why I let them annoy me, but they do. What am I talking about? Mispronunciation.

Next time you have a conversation with someone under the age of, say, 40, listen out for the following pronunciations:

  • Shtupid
  • Shtudent
  • Shchool
  • Shtress
  • Shtraight
  • Shtation

It doesn’t appear to affect every instance of English language words beginning with “st”, but it is definitely spreading.

I know. I’m being pedantic. Change is inevitable. I do think some basic elocution lessons should be included in the shchool curriculum, though.

Passed. Passed what?

It was expected to be just another lump of dull basalt, but the first rock examined up close by Nasa’s Mars rover proved to be a little more interesting.

The pyramidal object, nicknamed “Jake Matijevic” after a recently passed mission engineer, had a composition not seen on the planet before. Scientists have likened it to some unusual but well known rocks on Earth.

These form from relatively water-rich magmas that have cooled slowly at raised pressures, said Edward Stolper.

This story about Mars Opportunity is full of fascinating information about recent discoveries the car-sized rover has made in Gale Crater on the Red Planet. I have to say I usually like what the BBC’s Jonathan Amos writes, but this one made me stop and wonder.

A recently passed mission engineer. What has he passed? Wind? Go, and not collected £200? His 11+? A-level Chemistry? Driving test?

(With apologies to Mr Matijevic’s family, of course. No offence intended.)

Ah, of course. It’s that odd American English way of saying someone has died.


’E’s not pinin’! ’E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ’E’s expired and gone to meet ’is maker! ’E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ’e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ’im to the perch ’e’d be pushing up the daisies! ’Is metabolic processes are now ’istory! ’E’s off the twig! ’E’s kicked the bucket, ’e’s shuffled off ’is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

UPDATE: 14/10/12 Someone at Auntie must read this blog, or sees my Twitter feed. The word “passed” has been edited to “deceased”.


The BBC’s habit of using a certain form to describe a country or the people thereof is annoying at best. What is wrong with using French/Chinese/Polish rather than France/China/Poland?

Then again, if you’re going to be annoying, at least be consistent about it.


Here we have a fragile-sounding “China woman…” compared to a “Polish village…”. If I was editor-in-chief, it would be a Chinese woman, but going by house style the latter ought to be a Poland village.

There are proper words to describe the things I am writing about, but my brain is being recalcitrant and not letting me find them. I apologise for my poor language. I don’t think it’s contagious.

EDIT: Someone has been subediting and corrected things since I posted—and corrected them against style to boot! Perhaps I have readers who work at the Beeb. 

Rant Ahead — you have been pre-warned!

West Midlands Police said they were called after the large crowd gathered outside a nightclub holding a “pre-planned” club night.

Please, for the love of Bob, what does “pre-planned” actually mean?!

Did the participants have to pre-book their tickets for this pre-planned event? Did they pre-masticate their meals while pre-eating? Did they pre-breathe? Did they pre-dress before they pre-left their homes for the evening?

I despair for my mother tongue!