Archive for September, 2011

Issue 13

It’s Wednesday lunchtime and we’re hungry. Then Rob Ward comes along with all kinds of talk about cookery and now we’re clawing at the bag of scram from Eat. Still, you can’t say he doesn’t have a point; just perhaps eat your Pret sarnie before you consume this piece. Rob, aka @PocketaPocketa, is a photographer and short story writer who hails from the Black Country but now lives in Wales.

Worst Word – by Rob Ward

Like Greene’s Bendrix, I’m a good hater. I don’t need a lot of encouragement to hate things enduringly and immoderately but generally find that with the company I keep – and I’m pretty picky about the company I keep having a fair old streak of misanthropy churning away three days in ten – I’m not short of encouragement. As far as hating words goes, I am at my most prolific, no doubt because, though I write and read as much as I can, love foreign languages and relish any opportunity to learn a new word, my eccentric cerebral wiring, with ADHD and a little autism thrown in for good measure, means that if I am in the company of anybody who is speaking peculiarly or with that now modish post-ironic laziness that passes as an acceptable form of democratic slumming articulacy, I am guaranteed to, like, pick up any kind of you know, even half-arsedly viable meme that comes my way.

One I have been resistant to thus far was enthusiastically adopted by my dad some years back. “Cushty”, along with its stablemate “pucker”, made a huge comeback in the first wave of Jamie Oliver fever. Now, going back ten years I was a voluble hater of Jamie and the hipster shoot-some-b-ball-Lambretta-riding school of cooking he spawned. No more. Anyone who has helped to learn them kids wot an aubergine is and seen off the Turkey Twizzler is sound as a pound by me. Back then, though, I just wished he would let the food speak for itself, cos every time he opened his big gob it seemed like, well it was like at the end of the day it weren’t coming across as like proper organic.

Like most people who write for this site or who hate the use or abuse of certain words, I love words. I love the written and spoken language. I’ll tolerate any manner of bending and breaking of the rules of the English language so long as it grew up organically in a particular community and fits into a certain philosophy and aesthetic expressed in the dialect and even the grammatical distortions of that particular demographic. Jamie knows that certain ingredients go well together because they literally grew up together in or on a certain soil in a particular season. Any given cuisine is based upon certain combinations of these local seasonal ingredients and while lemon grass might be used to give a little something to a hackneyed combination, most of the time those time-worn combinations are pretty bloody good.

The problem with language now is that we are assaulted by so much of it. We re-up on a series of a detective show set in Baltimore at the same time as chowing down on a repeat of a period drama and downloads of Scottish singers singing reggae songs. Punk was once described as English singers taking off New Yorkers taking off English singers. All kinds of yummy dialects and accents and uses and abuses of words are up for the taking. Which means that an Irishman born in Donegal can come to the British Black Country and have a memory awakened of watching Only Fools And Horses by an Essex boy throwing peppers in a pan from three feet away. It means that we can all change our way of speaking like we change the ringtones on our phones. It means the Prime Minister can give an interview on television speaking like Dick Van Dyke doing a Cockney chimney sweep.

The way I see it is, lemon grass is great, occasionally. Most of what we cook and eat, though, is better coming from round where we live. Similarly, the words we use have more impact, and sound better, when they have come from the people who speak to us while in the same room or stood on the same street. I say “ideal” and “champion” now I’m living in Wales. I pick up certain phrases and say them. But I hear them from the people I see every day and though I might like sometimes to jettison it, I don’t think it sounds too ridiculous to worry about unduly. There are certain things I could never do. When I say “garage” it rhymes with “midge” and not “The Haj”. I’m from the Midlands but I can’t say “terar” any more here in North Wales where it is a familiar form of goodbye than I could at home where I heard “terar a bit” every day. It doesn’t sound right from me. I only wish I had more such inflexible rules.

At the end of the day though I reckon you can talk how you want so long as it doesn’t sound forced or self-conscious. So long as it sounds like you might have heard the words you used in common usage around you and not just picked them up from tellybox like some lass trying to take off Sarah Jessica Parker in a New Look gown. Different it might be. Cushty it ain’t.


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Issue 12

Wednesday comes round quickly, doesn’t it? “Comes”, hehehe. Sorry. The We Hate Words team currently has a one-track mind and we’re being all dirty and rude and innuendo-filled as the climax (fnar) builds to Smut Night, which we’re helping organise. It’s pretty timely then that novelist, poet and lyricist Mercedes Fonseca, aka @cedered on that Twitter, has this week chosen to hate one of many words for ladyparts.

Worst Word – by Mercedes Fonseca

It could be “uvula” or “bulb” or any word with rolled enunciation and puckered vowels but my Worst Word is vulva. Not only does it offend me in form, it annoys me when it comes to meaning and usage.

I am unable to divulge the word without the temptation to follow the second V with a gagging noise. I detest the way the L lingers behind my front teeth or how the Vs tickle my lips in the wrong way. Don’t assume that it is born of prudishness; I will “see you next Tuesday” any day of the week.

Perhaps it is an issue of phonosemantics: vulva feels like it would better describe a keyhole. The brevity evokes a nook rather than what it is meant to be; both the external and the tucked in, the enabler of life, the Universe of Musk.

I can’t quite reconcile that the word incorporates so many negative associations, like a greedy Venn diagram. All lumped in for the economics of language, I assume, but it perpetuates a feeling of “out of sight out of mind” that vulva owners have never benefited from.

In Spanish, technically my mother tongue, I find I have the same issue with the word. I found it was reserved for shrink-wrapped Secret Guides To Menarche (for your female eyes only) that came free with magazines. Also rushed and generic.

Vulva marks the spot (or, if you are exhibiting ill-fitting pants, another unfortunate visual indicator) on my map of linguistic failure.

(NB Only has the television show Spaced brought a smile to my face rather than yet another gag with its usage of the Worst Word, and I feel it deserves as special mention.)


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Issue 11

Yoohoo, us again. This week, we’re not just hating words, we’re venturing into the dangerous waters of pronunciation and dialect. Oh, and baked goods. (Incidentally, oven bottoms: stupidest pairing of words we ever heard.) Anyways, let us pass you over to Laura Maley, who goes barmy over barmcakes and blogs about arts n stuff innit at Cultural Shenanigans.

Worst Word – by Laura Maley

Contrary Mary, I’ve always enjoyed words; from the simplicity of Jan Pienkowski’s Meg and Mog stories, to the poetic beauty of Janet Frame’s Faces In The Water.

I also like saying words. Reading study notes aloud helps me to revise for exams, for example, and I don’t actually mind speaking to crowds. I believe that a four-hour long phone call can be a truly wonderful thing, and a dinner left unordered because you’re lost in conversation is the sign of a great date. But then, when I’m nervous, embarrassed or just downright passionate, words will spew forth unchecked with very little thought as to the end result.

Sometimes though what intrigues, amuses, baffles or downright infuriates me is how words are spoken. I’m talking the combination of words and pronunciation (NOT pronounciation, sillies). Let’s get right to the point, I’m southern. I’m from Berkshire and I’ve lived in Manchester for eight years. At first the humble word “barm” confused me – in fact the whole multitude of words for bread products could probably take up a whole blog to explore (you are welcome to start it; it’s unlikely I will get round to it, but I’ll guest blog about bagels if you like). I once asked for a cheese salad roll in a shop here and was met with blank stares and, frankly, mistrust. I continued requesting rolls at various establishments but had to admit defeat. Now, finally, I have embraced the barm; not barmcake, that’s just a daft step too far.

In short, I welcome regional words and accents but it doesn’t mean I have to use (or even like) them. In among the rest of my speech, the short vowels of “bath” or “grass” instead of “baaaath” or “graaaass” just sound ridiculous; as though I’m pandering, imitating and possibly even patronising. I am mocked for my “room” sounding like “rum”, but then I stifle giggles when my Midlands friend calls a “bus” a “buzz”.

All of which goes to prove I’m not (just) regionalist, as does the fact that the pronunciation that really bothers me, the one I hate, that grates and which caused me to put fingers to keyboard today, seems to have no rhyme nor reason behind it. I’m talking about my biggest linguistic bugbear, and one of my worst (pronounced) words: scone. That is unless, like me, you follow the true path and rhyme “scone” with “gone”.

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Issue 10

Here we go again, slagging off words, and this week we’ve got a special two-for-the-price-of-one offer for you. Some might even call it an expression. That’s allowed. It’s an expression that takes liberties with some poor bloke’s name, so it’s actually {a word + a name = an expression} = hatred. This outpouring of ire comes courtesy Dom Conlon who, despite vicious rumours largely generated by themselves, isn’t even remotely related to the We Hate Words editor. Dom writes short stories and other creative magickry over at Inkology.

Worst Word(s) – by Dom Conlon

I’ve walked on the moon, I’ve turned water into wine and I once saw Elvis buying a bacon barm in Greggs. It’s true because I say it’s true and any of you who say otherwise had better take it up with the good Lord.

You are not just a naysayer, you are a Doubting Thomas.

If ever there was a person unreasonably maligned throughout history, it was Thomas. A faithful follower of Jesus, this man is now associated with a betrayal second only to Judas (feel free to write your own comment about that poor bastard who, with one word from a pre-warned son of man, might have been persuaded to walk a different path and so prevent, at the very least, his own death).

But back to Tom.

Here was a man who asked for a bit of evidence before he could believe that his friend (who he had seen put to death in one of the most prolonged, brutal methods of capital punishment a state has ever devised) was still alive.

Not much to ask really, is it?

Should he believe the word of a group of people who were grief stricken and on the run from the law? From a group who must have been desperate for their leader to return to them? It’s not as though he denied the very possibility of a man returning from death, he just wanted evidence.

He got the evidence of course. He also got one of the biggest slap-downs in history from his dead friend, a man who raised a prostitute to sainthood and made a turncoat into a pope.

What would Jesus rather have happened? Any fool could have stood up and claimed “I am Spartacus” and, in a stroke, subverted everything he’d been trying to build. All that turning the other cheek stuff might have been washed away by an imposter intent on inciting his flock into a frenzy of revenge attacks. And all because he didn’t believe in the benefits of photo ID.

Instead, by demanding blind faith, we had a stranglehold on science and the promotion of a culture in which value is placed on believing our “betters”. I’m all for trust, but, really, Thomas wasn’t showing an unreasonable lack of it by wanting to stick a finger in the gooey bit. Was he?

I think Thomas sets a good example and the whole “doubting Thomas” expression annoys me. And if you don’t believe me… well that’s ok.

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