My pet peeve: Hijacking of the English language

In my world, black used to mean black and white was white. Male referred to masculinity and female was femininity. Today, the lines have become so blurred due to political correctness, that we have changed the meaning of words as they were intended, and woe is the person who uses in the wrong “context”. Here are some that annoy me:



“Green” is such an overused word. Green is a colour that lies between yellow and blue in the spectrum of light. Today we have green appliances – even though they are white. We have wind energy that is green. The last time I looked, the wind is colourless and odourless. How about the “green movement”? These people think of themselves as connected to the earth. Well, the planet earth is made up of mostly brown crust; how is that green? It would be much more genuine to call things environment-friendly or pollution-free.


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“Can you please bring my tablet”? Now, are we referring to a pill or a stone slab. In ancient times, inscriptions were written on a stone tablet. Today, someone in their wisdom decided to name a portable hand-held device like the iPad, a tablet. Descartes, in his philosophical discourse, stated, “I think, therefore I am”. Perhaps we can update this, “I say. Therefore, it is” when it comes to naming devices.



The word sustainable makes me cringe every time I hear it. It is one of those words that you hear politicians, CEOs and media people uttering with such frequency that it becomes meaningless. We have sustainable cars, houses, ideas, even sustainable taxation that is something I heard a politician referring to today.

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In my younger days, I only heard that term in one context; “Objection, you honour” or “Objection sustained”. Most of us remember that from the old Perry Mason TV series. Do we want to keep things permanently in place? Things are evolving and changing, so let’s not get hung up on sustainability that implies that we fix things in place.


Climate change

Climate change has become misused and ingrained in our vernacular. To me, it’s a ridiculous phrase. Climate refers to the average weather conditions in a certain region including temperature, precipitation and humidity. Guess how they determine average? It’s the day-to-day changes in these figures. Every day we have a slightly different temperature and precipitation reading. Therefore, the climate is always changing and always has been doing so.

It doesn’t matter if we look back before humans existed or in current times, change is a part of climatic patterns. There are climatic regions, for example, where I live in Perth, we have a Mediterranean climate, described as cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. It was this way 35 years ago when I arrived in Perth and is still the same today, except for the slight daily variations.

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When did we cross the threshold of referring to homosexuals as gay? Gay used to mean happy. We used to hear about the gay 90s; that decade of the 1890s that was supposedly a happy and prosperous time. If you call someone gay today, you might get more than you bargained for if that person is a heterosexual.


Carbon dioxide is a pollutant

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We have gone from Co2 as a trace gas in the atmosphere to being described as a poison. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US has described the gas as a pollutant.

Do you remember your high school biology? The cycle of life involves us breathing in oxygen that is released by plants and they take in Co2 during the process of photosynthesis. The exchange of these gases is part of the vital life cycle without which we wouldn’t exist.


I say, let’s use words with clarity as to what we mean, not to be trendy or politically correct.


Do you agree with Ely? What words have changed since you were growing up?