My pet peeve: Hijacking of the English language 75

What pisses me off


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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.



“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.

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.



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

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?

Dr Ely Lazar and Dr Adele Thomas

  1. English is a living language and, as such, will change. If you want a language that stays the same, speak Latin; it’s dead.
    Poor grammar on the other hand…

  2. Your article seems much more an anti climate change rant than a tale of misuse of language. I would rather current words be used for the Green movement or Climate Change than meaningless drivel. As an ex public servant I admit to guilt over playing lingo bingo at meetings where we had our little bingo sheets secreted among our notes and the first to get bingo as our management sprouted words like down sizing, outcome gearing, etc would cough or clear their throat.

    2 REPLY
    • As an ex public servant myself – I remember that buzz-word grid well. 🙂

    • What about ‘absolutely’ that’s only started being used constantly in the last 40 years or so, yet in a play on the BBC radio, set in the 19th century I heard it being used, made me annoyed. I bet politicians use that word the most often.

  3. This does not worry me. On the other hand the wholesale americanisation of our language appals me. When did the 31st of July become July 31? Or lawyer replace solicitor? I have even heard sidewalk. Australian english is disappearing.

    9 REPLY
    • Lawyer has not replaced solicitor
      You can be a lawyer, a solicitor or a barrister. Depends on what level you have studied, and your experience .

    • are you a lucky bunch, only worried about words??? if they all mean the same, does it really matter in the scheme of life??? bikkie or cookie?? big deal, they all taste the same…but if this is your main worry for australia, go bury your head a bit deeper

    • Of course there are many more vital problems. What this issue indicates to me however is an attitude that Australian culture and society are not good enough and we must copy others. If that is the case then why fight foreign ownership or taking our culture out of schools. These little changes are just the tip of the iceberg. Words as part of culture are immensely powerful.

    • And I just love how everything is getting AmericaniZed, replacing the “s” with a “z”.
      Nearly forgot to add…sarcasm intended!

  4. Climate change is more than a pet peeve for me – it drives me insane when i hear rich men telling us we need to reduce our own carbon footprint – of all the fanciful nonsense i’ve heard this one takes the cake!! Last time i looked humans were carbon units!! This is just an way to make rich men richer at the expense of the rest of us!!

    4 REPLY
    • Lynne is right the rich leave a bigger carbon footprint than the poor … they travel more… planes cars etc .. big corporations dont give a crap about damage to climate just about the $$$.. Half the world doesnt even have electricity ..the power to change is with the rich … … .

    • Actually Lynne, preserving the status quo is what makes rich men richer. Moving to alternative energy sources may create new wealth, but it will also diminish existing wealth.

    • Wouldnt be too bad if the bigger oil companies didn’t buy out modern technologies that they are afraid will put them out of business

  5. Personal best – a phrase that drives me insane. What? Nobody can say they or their kids failed something?? And of course don’t forget the lingo when it is confidently referred to as “PB” possibly hoping that no one asks what it all means……..LOL!!

  6. Yes! Yes! Yes! gender neutral….ridiculous …my cat in now gender neutral….what are we doing to our children.?

  7. Is that your biggest worries lucky you, seems a lot of silly things to be worried about. Climate change drives me crazy too because our world is being destroyed for my grandchildren and your worried about the use of the term, worry about what is happening, and do something about it.

    1 REPLY

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