Pods, blogs, and others

I love the way language changes over time. Well most of the time I do… ‘totes amazeballs’ is not something I’ll ever be able to deal with.

Maybe it’s more accurate to say I’m fascinated by the way language changes.

Two words in particular at the moment have me intrigued, because we use them so much these days without really considering where they’ve come from, and in a very short space of time.

Podcast: I listen to and talk about them so much. I think podcasting is a fantastic medium. Some of my favourite podcasts are from a group called Crooked Media, which produces U.S. political and social podcasts like Pod Save America, Pod Save The World, and Pod Save The People. They even have a term for regular guests:

So, pod as a word is thrown around pretty readily now. Pod, short for podcast, which is a portmanteau of iPod and broadcast. And of course iPod itself is a made-up word, which apparently comes from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In fact iPod became a byword for a digital music player – much in the ways Xerox, Tippex, and Kleenex became bywords for photocopier, correction fluid, and tissues.

And an interesting point on the iPod, seeing as I’m talking about them. Aside from the iPod Touch – which is basically an iPhone without the phone element! – Apple no longer makes iPods. The standalone Apple Music player lasted only 16 years.

But I digress…

Blog: this is another word which interests me. Some (younger) people may not even know that a blog is in fact a web log!

Of course the blog has spawned a generation of bloggers and video bloggers, who I seem to recall produced vlogs – though I’m not sure that phrase entirely stuck.

I’m sure you can think of other such words. If so, let me know!

Pods, blogs, and others

Sweary acronyms… WTF??

So I’m just putting something out there with this post.

How ‘acceptable’ do you think it is to publish – be it an online publication or in a social media post – an acronym which uses swear words?

Let me give you an example:

Now let me be clear. There’s absolutely no disrespect to Sophy Ridge here, who I think is an excellent journalist.

I’m just thinking… she, or any other journalist, probably wouldn’t write the words “what the f**k” in print… but does it become ‘acceptable’ when it’s written as an acronym?

Same with FFS.  Is this just the world we live in now?

Here’s another example I spotted a few weeks ago:


Would be interested in your f**king thoughts 😉



Sweary acronyms… WTF??


It’s been a very long time since I posted here, so apologies for that.

But the reaction I had to a tweet today got me thinking, and I decided this was the best place to put it out there.

Here’s the tweet in question:

Okay, I know this is ‘classic me’.  Pontificating about the decline in standards of the English language, and complaining about all these weird words the kids use these days.

But then came a reply… actually series of 11 tweets from a follower, Fly.  I’ve edited it down into one post here, just for ease of reading:

Kamahl, you keep asking questions like this.

21st century tech requires & facilitates a huge increase in CASUAL written language, whereas previously written language was mostly formal and did not reflect the casual structure, flexibility and playfulness of spoken language.

AAVE is the form of English with the greatest pop-cultural/cool cachet (although conversely it is regarded with snobbish disdain by those with a vested interest in maintaining a power structure which prioritises Anglo-American upper-middle class dialects and creates an artificial hierarchy of linguistics. This is snobbery).

AAVE and indeed all other dialects are complex and nuanced and effective.

Anyway, you will note that language is in a constant state of flux, and that includes stodgy mainstream speakers of formal English gradually becoming aware of terms like ‘bae’, ‘on fleek’, ‘yasss’ etc, and either grumbling about them or starting to awkwardly use them.

I mean – come on, Kamahl. You know this, really.  “Yasss kween” carries concise connotations which would be absent from “yes”.  Ditto “yasss”.  These things exist and gain traction only because they are functional and express something not currently being expressed effectively otherwise; possibly something as subtle as membership of a group, even.

Now, believe me when I say I appreciate a response like this.  Actually I think it’s the second time I’ve had such a response from Fly.

There is undeniable logic behind what he/she says, and the reply makes a strong case for the evolution of language.  Of course, language must evolve.  It is a growing and dynamic medium, and indeed half the words we use today simply wouldn’t have been around 100 years ago (I’m generalising here, but you know what mean!)

But personally, I don’t buy into Fly’s theory of “snobbish disdain by those with a vested interest in maintaining a power structure which prioritises Anglo-American upper-middle class dialects”.

I’m not trying to be snobbish when I ask questions like I did.  I’m simply concerned that this is becoming the norm and that the ‘real words’ are being lost.  I worry about my eight-year-old daughter thinking that yasssss or any derivative of it is actually how you spell the word yes.  It’s not.  Spelling IS important.  Real words ARE important.


On a similar level, I also wasn’t a fan of the phonetic alphabet which kids are taught these days, although thankfully as they get older they revert to the regular ABCs rather than Ah-Buh-Cuh.

Yes I’m a traditionalist when it comes to language, but I’m also a realist.  You can’t stop the march of youth, social media, and the changes those will bring.  Heck, 50 odd years ago it would have been considered ‘wrong’ to use a word like cool to describe something that’s good, but these days I use it on-air!

Just as long as people, especially young people, are aware of etymology and where words come from and that they continue to be taught such things – not just by their teachers, but their elders and society in general.

Because yes, something might well be totes amazeballs… but if people don’t know that phrase actually came from the words totally amazing, then we’ve got a problem…


Achingly astute: my latest linguistic hero

First, I must tip my hat to my Al Jazeera Engish colleague Bernard Smith for emailing this link out to our whole newsroom.  I hope everyone reads it.

Until today I’d never heard of Jeremy Butterfield.  He is (seeing as you asked) the editor of Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, and has written a brilliant Comment is Free article in today’s Guardian newspaper:


Jeremy is, I believe, a little bit like me.  Slightly pedantic, occasionally furious, but always passionate about defending the English language.  The examples he gives in his article are things I see creeping into journalism all the time – even TV journalism, which is supposed to be all about simplicity and speaking normally.

Jeremy – whether it’s the linguist’s hat or tinfoil hat you occasionally forget to don*, I’m glad you do.  English will of course evolve, as it must.  But isn’t it equally, if not more important to use the language we already have and to use it properly?

Anything less would surely be ‘unacceptable’!

*(there’s one right there… who dons anything anymore?)

Achingly astute: my latest linguistic hero

Public apology to Frances Cook

Upon rereading my last blog post, I felt an apology was in order.  Or at the least, a clarification.

In my outraged criticism of the word medaled and its creeping into journalism, it struck me that it sounded like I was criticising the very person who SAID it and inspired me to write the blog.

To the contrary!

Frances Cook from NewstalkZB in New Zealand is an excellent journalist – and a great proponent of placing her tongue firmly in cheek.  She and I had some banter over the word, but I know she adheres to the highest writing standards in her professional career.

And if there were a Banter Olympics, I have no doubt she would medal (if not meddle too!)

Sorry, Frances!

Public apology to Frances Cook

The scourge of Verbing

It was a seemingly innocuous tweet by my friend (and journalist, I might add!) Frances Cook which reminded me of what, in my opinion, is one of the world’s great unchecked grammar crimes:


Did you spot it?

No, it wasn’t synchronised swimming – although I consider that to be one of the world’s great unchecked sporting crimes.

It was the word medaled.

Medaled is an example of verbing, or verbification. Or as I prefer to call it, making a mess of the English language.

It is the conversion of a noun into a verb, and I have to admit in some cases is perfectly acceptable.  For example you may start with the word mail – as in a letter or a package – and extend that to I’m mailing it to you this afternoon.  Or mail’s more modern cousin email – an electronic message – is naturally changed to he emailed it to the whole group last week.

So far, so good.

But medaled?  This is to say that he or she won a medal.  He only came fourth in the 100m final, but medaled in the 200m.  The United States medaled in seven events on Day 5 of the Olympic Games.  She’s hoping to medal in at least two of the three competitions.

And that’s one of the less offensive examples.  Whilst working at Channel Seven in Australia, I would hear about the football player who goaled in a match.  I recently read about American skier Lindsay Vonn becoming the winningest U.S. athlete in World Cups.

I’m sorry.  It just isn’t right.  I know it’s becoming acceptable to use such words, but when they creep into journalism I have a real issue with it.  Medaled is a particularly contentious one because it of course sounds like meddled.  If someone meddled in an event in the Olympic Games, that would be reason for concern rather than celebration.

But then perhaps I’m over-reacting.  After all, how many times a day do I and countless other people say things like this?


I’d be interested in your thoughts on this one.  Perhaps I’m just being too pedantic!

The scourge of Verbing

Just one extra letter…

A quite astonishing story here from the UK:


You should read the full article… but the short story is that a company called Taylor and Sons was recorded as being in liquidation by Companies House – the UK Government agency which incorporates and dissolves companies.

Only it wasn’t.

It was Taylor and Son – in the singular.

One letter added, and all hell breaks loose for a poor unassuming company.

Something tells me that Sent from my iPhone, please excuse typos definitely wouldn’t cover this one!

Just one extra letter…

A message to iPhone typ-ologists


Very odd title I know.  I was trying to play on the word apologist but I don’t think it worked.


I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve seen this block of text, or something similar, at the end of an email message:

Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse brevity, terseness, and typos

My response to that – as a fan of the English language – is no, why should I?

I think we can all agree that, to different extents, technology has made us lazy. We abbreviate a lot more than we used to… we sometimes revert 2 txt spk which I personally h8… and we send a lot more emails, texts and instant messages in a day than we ever did before.

But all that means that technology IS an acceptable part of life now. No-one is special or unique because they have a phone with a touchscreen keypad rather than a keyboard. So using technology as an excuse for not being accurate, or being terse in an email? Sorry, I don’t buy it.

Sure if you’re a journalist in a war-zone with bombs raining down, I think we’d forgive a bit of brevity. Actually wouldn’t it be great to see an email signature that said “Sent from my iPhone in the middle of Iraq. Constantly have the s**t bombed out of me so, you know, sorry if I hit a few incorrect keys, dude.”

But short of that scenario, the pedant in me can’t find room for an excuse. Yes I blog about the English language so I’m likely to be a bit more fussy about such things. But I really do believe in standards, and I think they’re taking a dive with all this fast-and-loose emailing. One starts to wonder where the everyday English language will be in another five or 10 years if this is how it’s being treated now.

And consider this – if you were to make mistakes in an email typed from your computer, would you have an apologist signature there too?

“Sent from my computer keyboard. Please excuse typos… I’m just a bit rubbish”

A message to iPhone typ-ologists

Less vs Fewer: how to get it right!

So this is how pedantic I can be.

I tweeted my last post by saying “The words of my mentor, Tony Ciprian, in 140 characters or less”.

Of course, that should actually be fewer, not less.

And so I’m writing a whole new post to correct myself, and to explain the theory!

It appears a lot of people don’t know how to use the two words. I didn’t for some time.  But now I find myself shouting at the television whenever I hear broadcasters and guests using the wrong word in the wrong situation.

The basic rule is can what I’m talking about be counted?

And if it can, you want to go with fewer.

Are there less cars on the roads today? No, there are fewer cars on the roads today… because cars can be counted. However you could say there’s less traffic on the roads… because traffic as a whole can’t be counted.

Less cake? Yes, but fewer slices of cake.

Fewer raindrops… (admittedly not something you’d often say)… but less rain.

Less of a crowd. Fewer people.

Does it all make sense? Good. Now make sure you use the right one!

More here from Grammar Girl at quickanddirtytips.com

Less vs Fewer: how to get it right!


If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll possibly know that my mentor Tony Ciprian died recently.

Losing Cippo – and remembering all that he taught me – has brought on a very reflective period.

But in a professional sense, it’s been constructive. It’s made me look even harder at what I write and why I write it. I feel I’ve been subbing my scripts with more vigour, and with even less tolerance for ‘flimflam’ and sloppy writing.

Even this blog is a second draft.

It’s also prompted me to trawl through Cippo’s now-dormant twitter timeline… just to see if there were any more little nuggets there. Any more Cippoisms.

And the great man didn’t disappoint:

  • 9 July 2013: “The Andy Murray headlines have ignored the fact that a Briton – Virginia Wade – won a Wimbledon singles title in 1977”
  • 3 April 2013: “I wish my lawn had stunted growth”
  • 20 February 2013: “When will some journos learn? Cars don’t lose control – drivers do”
  • 8 December 2012: “Journos… stop writing crap about something or someone bringing closure to a situation. There is never closure… ask the victim”
  • 20 October 2012: “Please sports presenters and newsreaders – it’s triathlon… not triathalon”
  • 29 May 2012: “We are not alone. Lots of Aussies also say ‘somethink’ instead of ‘something'”

I can’t really argue with him on any of those points. They’re perfect examples of the kind of cliches, mistakes, and misguided phrases we should all be working to remove from our journalism.

Oh and there was one more, seemingly-random tweet of his which I found:

  • 9 April 2012: “Hey mate, you’re (sic) ego is now bigger than all outdoors”

You’ll note it doesn’t mention anyone in particular.

But a quick sift through my own timeline around the same time reveals a pointless and self-indulgent hashtag called #KamahlFacts.

With that in mind, I’m pretty sure I know who he was talking about!

Thanks Cippo. Love your work.