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Issue 21

This was sent in by Andrew who used to sit next to Editor Clare in Physics. We weren’t very good at Physics, but we excelled in English. Now, Andrew queries in the email accompanying the photograph: “Is this too obvious a candidate? It was stuck on the wall of the photocopier room at work; some effort was made to correct it with a ballpoint pen a few years ago but I removed it last week in a fit of pique.” I say no, it’s not too obvious, and it’s good to see strong action was taken to remove the offending article. Confusing “of” with “off” is simply not acceptable in a professional organisation, even if you do purport it to be a “polite notice”. And what would the impolite version be? “Oi, pick your fucking files up you lazy twats”?

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Issue 20

Oh Radisson, what are you like? We see you’re quite partial to a bit of double arrow action, but don’t you think you’ve taken it just a wee bit too far with the lettering in the final item on the old signage there? It’s practically giving us a headache; like when a newsreader wears an inappropriate check on the telly and our eyes go all funny. You managed to spell it correctly the first time, Rad dudes, so what happened? Still, we’ll be back with our Tip-pex, so fret ye not.

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Issue 19

Now, we don’t actually hate this particular word, and you know we love a good cuss here at WHW Towers. But when editor Clare spotted this on the back of a cubicle door in some pub toilets in Durham, she was, quite frankly, shocked and appalled. You’d think they were slightly better brung up in such a posh cathedral and university city, right? Wrong. Look at that blatant display of anger not to mention the abuse of a perfectly good swear. Dickhead is one word, silly.

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Issue 18

This week, protesters from the Occupy Manchester group have taken over a patch of grass in Spinningfields, largely, we hear, because quite a few members of the group are keen skaters and want to be the first in line when the ice rink comes to town on Friday. Good for them! The anti-capitalism activists have already pitched up in Albert Square and Peace Gardens, and it was at the entrance to that encampment where we spotted this rather fetching sign. It takes us back to that whole apostrophe thing again, doesn’t it? Oh well, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they ran out of spray paint. And we promise to talk about something other than apostrophes in our next instalment. Honest.

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Issue 16


Ah, doesn’t it warm the cockles to see people spending money on promotional activities during these hard times – then totally pissing on their message with a misplaced apostrophe that makes them look completely unprofessional? And surely it can’t be worse than with the old “it’s” versus “its” cliche of a mistake, especially on a massive hoarding round a building site…

Sigh. For the benefit of those trailing behind in the correct usage of the English language, particularly those employed in the creative industries, let’s go over this one more time. Now, keep up at the back:

It’s = contraction of it is; the apostrophe marks the omission of the letter “i” of “is”.
Its = possessive case, for example: “The car had a dent in the door. Its door was dented” – as in the door belonging to the car had been hit by some clumsy oaf with a supermarket trolley or, depending on the size of the dent, perhaps even another car.

So just remember this, kids: eschew obfuscation. Disambiguation is of the utmost importance. Apart from anything else, you’ll look less like a dick if you get it right.

Let us leave you with this illustration of how the incorrect use of grammar in written text can lead to all kinds of difficulties: capital letters are the difference between “helping your Uncle Jack off a horse” and “helping your uncle jack off a horse”. See where we’re coming from?

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Issue 15

Quite Please

We have a chum. He is called Plashing Vole. We don’t think that is his real name. We’re not sure. Anyway, like us, PV is a lover of words and, like us, he gets quite upset by those poor souls (nice bit of personification at work there, wouldn’t you agree?) who find themselves in something of a jumbled-up conundrum. He gets so worked up, in fact, that he has created a Flickr set so he can share his worries with the outside world. And rightly so. It is called “Stupidity” and we’re proper into the idea. We can only commend him for such an act of generosity, and we’ve picked out one example to show you. It was taken at a higher educational institution. Quite. That’s probably all we need to comment on the matter.

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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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