Archive for June, 2011

Issue 3

This week, the editor speaks…

John Craven by Benjamin Judge

I can imagine the gasp from people of a certain age. John Craven! The man who brought news to children? Newsround John Craven? You hate the words of Saint John Craven?

Well yes. Yes I do. And I will tell you why.

It has nothing to with Newsround. Newsround was brilliant and Craven rightfully received an OBE for his work in children’s television. It is what came after that concerns me. We cannot forgive him his crimes because of his illustrious past. Imagine if at the end of the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole had given up nursing and spent the rest of their lives punching kittens in the face. We would be forced to say that although their pioneering nursing in the midst of battle was worthy of our admiration and respect, what came afterwards, the kitten thing, was, well, unfortunate.

That is all I am asking. That we separate ‘Newsround Craven’ from ‘kitten-punching Craven’. You, I imagine, are now frowning at your screen and stating, firmly, that John Craven does not punch kittens in the faces. I have two answers to this; one, I sometimes wish he did, as this would be a much easier problem to solve and in the short-term would involve less animal cruelty; two, do you know that you look beautiful when you are angry?

I don’t watch Countryfile very often, especially since they made it into a kind of Blue Peter for adults, but when I do it is Craven that gets my blood boiling most. He tends to do the ‘serious’ ‘scientific’ bit. His words are a menace to society. I hate his words. Allow me to give you an example.

“We all accept that free-range eggs are a better deal for the animal than battery farmed hens; but a new report suggests the opposite may be true…” It is always a new report and the new report always “suggests” that farming techniques that are, coincidentally, cheap and industrialised, are better for the consumer and the animal.

The eggs one is true. Craven visited battery farms and the most humane organic farms where chickens walk around in large outdoor pens. He then proceeded to tell us that ‘statistically’ hens in battery farms are less likely to suffer from disease and attacks by predators. Of course they are. Because they are locked in a cage. If Florence Nightingale kept a kitten in a cage for the purpose of punching it in the face, and then told you it was statistically less likely to be chased by dogs, you would say, “Sorry Flo, but you are a monster and I am calling the RSPCA.” And rightly so.

At a time when the argument against battery hen eggs was all but won, Craven waded in with his size 12 wellies and told Countryfile viewers that eating eggs from chickens that have their beaks and claws snipped and are then shoved in a cage already full of bloated rubbery hens was in some way humane and caring. Every chicken that ended up in a box instead of in a field because of his report is a life on his conscience.

Sometimes I wake up in the night, sweating and feverish, wishing that John Craven could be content with just punching kittens in the face.

My Least Favourite Word – by Benjamin Judge


You may be wondering what Errfocin means. Allow me to illustrate.

“Yeah, so I’m with Dave and, err, Simon, and we go to, err, Mary’s right. And she’s got this, err, DVD. Of that err, thing that was on tv last week. You know, err, The Apprentice.”

“Yeah, so I’m with Dave and, errfocin, Simon, and we go to, errfocin, Mary’s right. And she’s got this, errfocin, DVD. Of that errfocin, thing that was on tv last week. You know, errfocin, The Apprentice.”

I can cope with kids on the bus talking rubbish. I have no qualms with swearing. I love swearing. I don’t even have any problems with people littering their sentences with ‘err’ and ‘erm’. What I object to is ‘err’ becoming ‘errfocin’.

It just doesn’t sound nice.

My main objection is not even that it is upsetting the old ladies. My worry is that this is just another visible side-effect of a lost generation. I know jobs are thin on the ground, but if you begin to answer the question, “What makes you think you are the ideal candidate for the position”, with, “Errfockin…” you are getting off to a bad start.

Verbal ticks are hard to remove, but come on youth of today, think of your future. Do you want to get down on one knee and say…

“Shaz. The two years we have been together have been, errfocin, the best years of my, errfocin, life. Will you, errfocin, marry me?”

There are only two answers to that question. “No”, and, “Errfocin yes”. Neither of which bode well for the production of a wedding video you will be proud to show your grandchildren. 

In sickness and in, errfocin, health? Is that what you want? Is it youth of today? Is it? 

Get your, errfocin, act together.

Stupid Sentence of the Week

From the BBC News Magazine:

“Do Smurfs provide a model for a good society?”

Why not read the article and then vote here. We will pass the results onto the government so they can incorporate the ideas into their policies.


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Issue 2

Jane Austen – by Joanne Sheppard

It is a truth universally acknowledged that women like me – British women in their 20s and 30s with degrees in English literature – love Jane Austen.

And yet I have a confession to make.

I hate her.

There, I’ve said it. Despite being everything that a Jane Austen fan is popularly thought to be, I hate Jane Austen. I don’t care that she was a pioneering female writer of witty social commentary. I don’t care that’s there’s biting satire in her work, hiding under the empire-line Regency frocks. I don’t care that she’s the go-to author for introducing teenage girls to the classics. I don’t even care that adaptations of her novels have propped up the British film industry for decades and kept many a bonnet-maker in business. I still hate her.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to like her work. I studied Austen many years ago at university and when you’re required to read every single one of someone’s books in minute detail, believe me, for your own sanity you really do try to like them. But I just don’t have it in me.

Let’s start with her subject matter. I understand that it was necessarily shaped by the conventions of its day, but let’s face it: the usual modus operandi of a Jane Austen novel is that a girl meets a handsome gentleman, gets over a few hurdles placed in her way by her own misguidedness, perhaps falls for the wrong bloke for five minutes along the way, and ends up marrying the right one after all before everyone lives happily ever after. Well, I say everyone. There’s a usually someone who’s a bit plain, or perhaps shows a bit too much ankle and has an eye for a rakish young soldier, who comes a cropper.

Some wry observations occur along the way, usually about how silly young girls are for reading too many novels or someone being hilariously unaccomplished at the pianoforte, and… that’s it. Every time. And anyway, you can tell which man the girl is supposed to marry, because he has big sign above his head saying “THIS MAN IS THE ONE! YES. HIM. THIS ONE. OK? GOOD”, as well as a house the size of Luxembourg and a matching income. Take my advice. Never read a Jane Austen novel if you’re looking for surprises.

Not that this endlessly recycled plot isn’t a winning formula with countless readers, of course. Many a publisher of modern romances knows it is: replace the Netherfield ball with a shopping trip or a night in with a bottle of Chardonnay and voila, you’ve got chick lit. Not for nothing did Penguin reissue Austen’s novels with pretty-pink artwork and cutesy fonts on the covers in the hope of duping women into believing they were reading Sophie Kinsella. But it does mean that when we read Jane Austen, we’re essentially reading an infuriatingly arch Regency Mills & Boon,  padded out to 350 pages with endless dances, picnics and trips to Bath.

Lots of critics say this is excused by the fact that Jane Austen did it first, and did it best – and by all accounts rather remarkably did it sitting in a corner of the living room with her quill during social gatherings. Well, good for her. It’s not that this doesn’t impress me. But it doesn’t make me any more inclined to enjoy her work – I don’t find it any more interesting because she happened to write her books before Georgette Heyer did. And even amid the distractions of a gaggle of guests taking a turn about the room, she could at least have re-read her manuscripts and excised 47 uses of ‘tolerable’ and 38 ‘vexeds’ from each one before she went public.

But what about her characters, then? What about these spirited young Austen girls we’re always hearing about, fighting to marry for love in a world where a wedding was essentially a business transaction? Don’t they make her writing a joy to behold?

Unfortunately not.  Most of Austen’s female leads are actually either good-natured simpletons (Marianne Dashwood, Catherine Morland) or so boringly sensible you want to slap them (Elizabeth Bennet, Elinor Dashwood), with the occasional spoilt manipulator – yes, you, Emma Woodhouse – thrown in.

The male villains – your Willoughbys, your Wickhams – are florid cardboard cutout ne’er-do-wells who barely stop short of twirling their moustaches. Subsidiary characters, such as parents, randomly visiting clergymen and distant relatives, have all the depth of a puddle. Vulgar Mrs Bennet, hypochondriac Mr Woodhouse, pompous bore Mr Collins: every one of them is a cartoon stereotype. And Austen’s heroes – the very mention of whom is supposed to set women drooling like Pavlov’s dogs – are uptight stuffed shirts with as much capacity for passion as a paper bag.

But, I hear you ask, surely you can’t mean… not… not Mr Darcy! Not every woman’s fantasy man, taciturn, morally upstanding, handsome Mr Darcy! He’s Colin Firth in a wet shirt. He’s the romantic hero upon which all other romantic heroes are based. Everyone fancies Mr Darcy, surely.

Not me. I claimed to have a passing fondness for him in my A-level English class, but mostly because everyone else said they did and it made the lessons more interesting. Re-reading Pride & Prejudice as an adult, it struck me was what a nasty old snob he is, and how he has almost nothing of interest to say. Even Elizabeth only starts to fall for him and his ‘ten thousand a year’ after she happens to visit his massive, opulent house set in acres of gently rolling parkland.

So, sorry, but I just can’t see the appeal of Jane Austen. If I had a teenage daughter, Austen is not the classic author I’d wave under her nose when I wanted to wean her off Twilight.


My Least Favourite Word – by Guy Garrud


I hate pants. Let’s just say it again for comic effect, I hate pants! Not pants in the good old-fashioned sense, the item of underclothing encompassing briefs, y-fronts and some of the skimpy versions of boxer shorts, they’re absolutely fine in my book (though I really should get a proper book mark). My beef is with the other meaning. You know, the American meaning. You’ll find it creeping in where it shouldn’t be, in the subtitles of foreign films or books which, regardless of setting or characters, are determinedly set in the American view of the world where everything is in imperial units and nobody speaks anything other than English. Like those Star Wars novelisations where, despite being a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, people wear pants, drink coffee and herd Nerfs (though we appear to have the edge on them in this regard using commercial packaging and logistics companies to transport our foam-rubber darts).

What bugs me most about “pants”, aside from occasionally hilarious descriptions of a “pants suit” is that it tries to replace one of my most beloved words, trousers. Trousers is exactly what it sounds like, slightly formal, a bit too long and complicated and very very British. Trousers are not jeans, they’re not tracksuit bottoms or combats. they are not underwear or a pejorative, they are smart, they are practical and they are suitable for nearly any situation. If you talk to someone wearing trousers then you know that they take themselves seriously and, on the off-chance they are a sexual deviant, they’ll probably at least be organised about it, you know, clean dungeon, all the necessary equipment etc. Sorry, think I lost my train of thought there. Anyway, my point is, if you use the word ‘trousers’ then you will go far in life. Whereas ‘pants’, well, that could mean just about anything!

Well there you are. Guy hates pants. But what should we be calling those long tubes of fabric we wear on our legs. It is time to vote…

The winning answer will be written down in the We Hate Words manifesto, and will become law come the revolution.


Stupid Sentence of the Week

Sometimes the start of a sentence is so stupid that the second half is almost superfluous. You have already conveyed all the information you are going to. For example, if somebody said to you, “I am going to go roller-skating on the M6 because…” you would tune out after ‘because’. You don’t need the end of the sentence. The speaker has already told you they are a moron, anything else is just details.

Other examples might be “David Icke teaches us that…” “I think Margaret Thatcher is a positive role model because…” and “Coming up on the One Show tonight…”

This week saw a new high in the art of starting a stupid sentence. A statement from 10 Downing Street, regarding proposed changes to incapacity benefits, began a sentence with

“If we make exceptions for cancer patients…”

Can you see why this is a new level of idiocy here? It is beautiful isn’t it. There is only one legitimate conclusion to this sentence, which is “…we show we are actually human.” To invert this and to say “if we make exceptions for cancer patients” in the same way someone might say “if we make exceptions for people who turn up in trainers” or “if we make exceptions for people who say they have lost their raffle ticket”; as if not recovering fully from cancer in less than twelve months is somehow morally negligent is a stunning piece of ideological blindness.

You may as well release a statement saying “We at 10 Downing Street are inherently evil and would like to take this opportunity to say a big ‘fuck off’ to everyone.”


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Issue 1

Charles Dickens – By Benjamin Judge

I recently tried to read The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt and really struggled to get into it. I was surprised because I really love Byatt. I read the Quartet last year and thought it brilliant and I have been an admirer of her short stories for a very long time. The writing in The Children’s Book is of her usual, unnerving high standard. So why wasn’t I enjoying it? It took me about 100 pages to realise why.

It was the children. I think I hate words about children, or rather I hate words that are for adults that are about children.

The penny dropped at page 107 of The Children’s Book. A list of books started forming in my head. A list of books that I didn’t enjoy as much as I was supposed to do. Room, which I really liked but didn’t love; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I couldn’t warm too; The Life of Pi, which I made me so angry we may return to it on a later date; William Blake, and his meh meh meh, I Capture The Castle, which I want to love but don’t; Edward St Aubyn’s precocious little bastards; and Dickens, Dickens, Dickens, Dickens.

Oscar Wilde famously said “One must have a heart of stone not to read the death of little Nell without laughing.” I wouldn’t know because I rarely manage to get that far into Dickens. I started Bleak House, and was enjoying the parade of cranky old oddities, but there were these children, and they were just standing there, being children.

Now, I don’t hate children. Not many people do. But most of us hate children who sit behind us at the cinema and kick the back of our seat for two hours while rustling the noisiest bag of sweets in the world and telling their parent exactly what is happening around them. “Look mommy, I am eating a red sweet.” “Look mommy, I am eating a yellow sweet.” “Look mommy, this chair bounces when I kick it.” “Look mommy, the man in front is changing seats.”

I want you to be honest with yourself. That child. Picture him. Picture him thumping away at the back of your seat in arrhythmic patterns. A-thdump-dump-dump. A-thdump. A-thdump. Picture the spoilt little git after two hours of him realigning your spine, sitting on the seat behind you, surrounded by sweet wrappers, his clammy paws ruining the arm rests, a look of pure evil in his baby-blue eyes.

Picture him.

Now picture him, asking for more.

Picture him in a tattery jacket, using his best sugared tones to say “Please Sir, can I have some more?”

And that, admittedly quite unscientifically (except for the poll, which is well sciency) is why I hate Charles Dickens


My Least Favourite Word – By Clare Kirwan

I hate the word ‘robust’.
I hate the way it sounds overtly healthy and permanent. It brims with no-nonsense self-assurance. Nothing could ever be just a little bit robust.
I hate the way it sounds like a big-bossomed matron who knows what’s best for you, and also like a robot who doesn’t really care what’s best for you. ‘Robust’ is the robot nurse of offialdom. Robust would never pat you on the head and say: ‘There, there.’ It would slap you across the face to make a man of you (or woman – if you have a robust equal opps policy).
If I ever knew anyone nice who used it I might change my mind, but it was the favourite word of my ex-boss at the council – the one who wouldn’t let me have a career break unless it was for rest of my natural life.
She made us put it in every strategy we ever drafted. We were going to ‘take robust steps’ and ‘put into place robust measures’. Her reports always promised ‘robust co-ordination and dissemination of information’ when, frankly, we couldn’t co-ordinate and disseminate information in a brewery.
It’s one of those words that sneaks into incomprehensible official reports as part of the secret code for: ‘I understand that in a changing political and social environment the only way I can be seen to be in touch with current thinking is to keep my terminology up to date.’ Like ‘cohesive’ and ‘proactive’
Nobody in the real world says: “I’m going to make a robust sandwich” or “I’m off for a robust wa….” 
Never mind, like all jargon words it become unfashionable as soon as everyone else starts using it. Even such a stout, hardy little word isn’t able to stand in the way of continuing obfuscation. It isn’t that robust after all.


Sentence Of The Week

This weeks sentence of the week is both stupid and indescribably marvellous. Its existence is stupid but its use of words is almost magical in its silliness. It is from The Guardian, and was on page 28 on Tuesday. Instead of the usual quote from the main article we got a brief glimpse into the mind of an editorial process. In big letters, between comedy-sized quotation marks was:

Pullquote over five
lines in here
here herey
herey herey
type over text


Next week in We Hate Words

Joanne Sheppard has a bone to pick with Jane Austen, and Guy Garrud tells us exactly what he has against pants. You will find that and more here here herey herey next Sunday.

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Issue 0

Next week will see the launch of a brand new e-zine. We Hate Words.

If you have a look on the ABOUT page, you can see what it is all ABOUT.

If you have a look on the CONTRIBUTE page, you can see how you can CONTRIBUTE.


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