Peter G Farquhar (Letters, 25 February) is right to point out that languages are constantly evolving.
I must admit to drawing a degree of amusement from counting how many times the word “like” is used by teenagers whose conversations I sometimes overhear on the bus. Americans exclaiming “awesome” provokes a similar response.
I have often been interested to find the circular nature of English in particular.
By that, I mean the use of words in British English which have died out over here and been reintroduced from American English, which has preserved them.
“Gotten” is one I hear now, in the mouths of the younger generation, as is the expression “to talk with” someone, rather than to talk to them, as I was brought up to say.
Interesting terms that we usually think of as specifically American sometimes turn out to be native. A case in point is the use of the word “sidewalk”, which I found in a Dundee news report of my great-grandfather’s funeral, and the term, “in favor” rather than “favour”, used in his will, both from the year 1905.
A common word used in business by some nowadays is “leverage”, with “lever” rhyming with “never”, rather than with “leaver”, as most of us would pronounce the word.
I understand that the current American pronunciation was common in Britain a hundred years ago too.
Expecting people to speak “correct” English, as they now say, is a “big ask”. Now, wherever did that come from?
Andrew HN Gray
I was interested in Peter G Farquhar’s letter deploring the abuse of certain words in the English language.
My pet aversion is euphemistic jargon now so prevalent, particularly expounded by bureaucracy and the media. When the police knocked down an innocent bystander in a London street who died soon afterwards, that was reported as: “A man came into contact with the police resulting in a fall, he subsequently underwent a medical incident.”
After a care home scandal, a health spokesman admitted not that the care was bad but that it was “sub-optimal”.
There are no longer drug addicts or alcoholics, there are people with “substance dependency issues”.
When a Virgin rocket ship crashed, it sustained an “in- flight anomaly which resulted in the loss of the vehicle” (no mention of the loss of the pilot’s life).
A punch-up between two players in a recent rugby international was reported as a “pulsating encounter”, yes, by The Scotsman. I can truly say that, in all senses, words fail me.
Easter Park Drive
Barry Turner’s letters (24 Tuesday) strikes a chord. The use of “no problem” joins “absolutely” as an alternative to “yes”.
What about “literally” as a general term of emphasis and “take care” in place of “goodbye”?