Sunshine Blogger Award

Well, I know I said I’d write something about grammar or etymology, but then, how can one turn down the Sunshine Blogger Award? And there are plenty of more days ahead in which to indulge myself in the riches of English, so why not have a little break, eh, to enjoy a little sunshine? I probably won’t have to use so many italics on this one, and formatting all of those can be tiring.

So, I have to say a big thank you to Parvathy Sarat for her nomination. It’s an honour, and I strongly recommend you check out her blog, Trust Me, You’re Alive. How could you resist such a fascinating variety of topics as written by a scribbler, dancer, dog-lover, and an overthinker? Certainly three of those four describe me (I’ll let you decide which), so obviously her posts are great reading.

Let’s do this then.

Continue reading

The Passive Voice

Let’s imagine you’re writing an essay about your favourite writer. You might decide to begin by mentioning your favourite of his books, like so:

George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949.

Now, let’s imagine you’re writing an essay about your favourite novel. A logical start would be to mention who wrote it, like so:

Nineteen Eighty-Four was written by George Orwell in 1949.

What’s the difference between these two sentences? I’m sure you’ll agree that both contain the same information. But the focus is different, isn’t it? In the first we’re focussing on the writer, and in the second, on the novel. And we change focus by changing focus – between the active voice and the passive voice.

Continue reading

Politics and the English Language

If the ban were announced with a one week (sic) notice, the “bad” would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad “dudes” out there! – Donald Trump, 30/01/17

First of all, it’s not a travel ban – Sean Spicer, 31/01/17

Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind – George Orwell, 1946

When is a ban not a ban? Continue reading

You’ve Made it: You’re an Adjective!

Orwellian has become the go-to adjective to describe any situation of seemingly heavy-handed government surveillance or intervention. In a way it’s kind of a compliment, that you produced a work so evocative, so incisive that it comes to be seen as an ideal summation of a specific notion. A part of me also thinks that it’s a shame that those things we usually describe as Orwellian are really only relevant to Nineteen Eighty-Four, and not Orwell’s quite varied body of work.

Kafkaesque is another literary proper adjective (an adjective derived from a proper noun), which is more fitting, as much of Franz Kafka’s work has that sense of an individual dwarfed and alone in a world of uncaring, overwhelming bureaucracy that the adjective describes. If you’re a psychologist you might describe yourself as a Freudian or a Jungian. Much has recently been made of Donald Trump’s Keynesian economic policies. Continue reading

All the Feels

All the feels.


Your Facebook or Twitter feed no doubt features a few occurrences of this phrase. And you know, it’s fine, in the right place. A picture of two otters holding hands. A baby and a puppy playing. Manipulative, schmaltzy John Lewis Christmas adverts (I haven’t seen the latest one, but I gather it’s about a family buying a dog a trampoline for Christmas). Those situations which give you a nice warm feeling inside for a brief time.

As I’ve noticed it being used more and more though, I tried a little experiment. I searched for “All the feels” on Facebook (that’s about the extent of my social-media penetration), and the first five public posts brought up the following: Continue reading