Yes, it’s time again for One of Those Posts. You know, the ones where I rant about words, their use and misuse and abuse and whether it’s time to – well, to call a truce. I’ve given up with the apostrophe – although giving up feels a bit like the Major in Fawlty Towers where he looks at his paper and says ‘Strike, Strike, Strike! Why do we bother, Fawlty?’ to which Basil replies, sotto voce: ‘Didn’t know you did, Major.’ That’s my life: I bother about grammar and spelling and the uses, misuses and abuses of our demotic Anglo-Saxon (damn, these sit-coms keep getting in: that’s ‘Blackadder’ with Robbie Coltrane as Dr Johnson) and the world, in the shape of Basil Fawlty, repeats sotto voce, ‘Didn’t know you did, Lizardyoga.’
Well I can’t help it, and here is the latest batch of utterances to cross my verbal horizon. First off, disinterested. You must have heard it too; it’s everywhere: I last heard it on the radio this morning when an otherwise reasonably educated and eloquent presenter used it in broad daylight in front of a nationwide audience. What he actually meant was uninterested: bored, alienated, reduced to a state of tedium. Not disinterested. Disinterested means – or used to mean, until these hooligans got hold of it – detached, impartial, uninvolved; as in a disinterested bystander.
And then there’s alright. I grew up being rapped over the metaphorical knuckles for that spelling and being told that all right is two words, not one – but nowadays alright crops up in the best of circles * and the other spelling is rarely seen. How do these things happen?
I suspect they happen for a variety of reasons; still, change as ever is effected through usage, and it’s pointless beefing about it. But whereas all right and alright clearly mean the same and there is no appreciable reason why one should not be exchanged for the other; in the case of disinterested and uninterested we have two different words which are conflated with the result that one of them is lost.
Should we worry? Should we send out a search party? Don’t ask me. And what’s with this horrid new word prideful? What’s wrong with just saying proud? I mean, does John Donne’s poem say ‘Death be not prideful’? I don’t think so!
On the plus side (sort of) a friend on Facebook has invented or discovered a new word when she said that a delivery had been windowed for between nine and twelve of the clock. Now, for all I know this verb is in constant use in delivery circles; workers at Amazon may tell each other on an hourly basis that parcels have been windowed between six a m and midnight (well it is Amazon, what d’you expect?) – but this verb was new to me and I quite like it.
There’s a lot of this sort of stuff going on and I keep trying to make a definitive list, but it’s like trying to build a castle out of water. So that’s it for today.
Argh, I actually used it for real. *Sigh.*
*crop circles, ha ha
One thought on “Look, I’m Just Disinterested, Alright?”
When I was eleven years old, I heard a radio broadcast by Bernard Levin which specifically addressed the difference between ‘uninterested’ and ‘disinterested’. This happy accident ensured that I would never, ever get these two words muddled up.
Bernard Levin was a great man. I miss him.
Correcting someone’s grammatical/lexicological mistakes can be a risky business. Too often, it’s done in an unkind way to deliberately belittle the ‘correctee’ (although very often -as in the case of Leave voters – the belittling is entirely justified).
I predict that Donald Trump’s first major contribution to the English language – the invention of the word ‘bigly’ – will have achieved a permanent place in the dictionaries by the time his Presidency comes to an end (which I’d estimate as being in 2024 at the earliest).