I am the first to admit, I am not always original but I do try to be topical and even then, perhaps decades out of touch. Bear with me.
The word rubbish used as a verb, first struck me about a decade ago when used by a most unsuitable boyfriend who said I had rubbished his apology gift.
The discomfort I had – with the word used in that sense, not the departure of the boyfriend – has never left me. And so like Mrs Chow, who wrote to The Star in 2011, I also have been curious to know: When did rubbish become a verb?
Never was there a question about its meaning, but rubbish making its way into the realm of doing rather than being has always upset me.
None-the-less Oxford Dictionaries defines rubbish the verb as (British English, informal) (North American English trash) rubbish somebody/something to criticize somebody/something severely or treat them as though they are of no value:
- The book was rubbished by the critics.
- He rubbished all my ideas, saying they were impractical.
Word Origin: late Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French rubbous; perhaps related to Old French robe ‘spoils’; compare with rubble. The change in the ending was due to association with -ish. The verb (1950s) was originally Australian and New Zealand slang.
Answering Mrs Chow, The Star explained that the offending word was often used in the Internet editions of some respectable British newspapers, and on BBC websites. It said editors were not finding it too informal to use in print “but perhaps it is too informal to be used in scholarly publications.”
The Star, provided these examples: “The theory of Scandinavian racial purity cherished by Hitler and the Nazis has been rubbished by new scientific research.” (telegraph.co.uk, June 13, 2008)
“A top historian has revealed who rubbished rivals’ works in online postings.” (guardian.co.uk, April 18, 2010)
And in 2016, I find these among the thousand of responses on Google.
- Guptas rubbish London news story – ANN7
- Hillary Clinton rubbished health rumours on Jimmy Kimmels show (Today Online)
- Bosso sale rubbished (Sunday News)
So it’s conclusive that rubbish is everywhere and having found its way into the verb class, it’s here to stay.
However it still does not sit well with me, and I will make every effort to clear it from my writing path. My only other hope is that rubbish as a verb will remain too informal for the scholarly texts.
But for the noun, which has far greater potential, a web dictionary provided the following rich alternatives.
jive [N. Amer],
folderol, (my personal favourite)
Now there’s no excuse for rubbish in your text. Use these words with prolific abandon to ensure no editor rubbishes your copy.
To me the word ‘dove’ brings to mind the soap brand and the birds referred to in one of Prince’s better known songs, When Doves Cry.
So I was a little taken aback when, reading a book by an American writer, he used the word dove to indicate the past tense of dove. This is what sent me on my search for correctness.
I have the contention that the American version of the English language is a lazy one (using practise as the spelling of the verb and noun, leaving out the u in colour, and so on).
So this supported my initial theory.
Merriam Webster had this to say:
Dive, which was originally a weak verb, developed a past tense dove, probably by analogy with verbs like drive, drove. Dove exists in some British dialects and has become the standard past tense especially in speech in some parts of Canada. In the United States dived and dove are both widespread in speech as past tense and past participle, with dove less common than dived in the south Midland area, and dived less common than dove in the Northern and north Midland areas. In writing, the past tense dived is usual in British English and somewhat more common in American English. Dove seems relatively rare as a past participle in writing.
Just imagine saying the car nose-dove into the river. The only possibility for the past tense of dive in this usage is dived.
And as I continue in my efforts to keep the English language pure, I hope that dove will remain rare in its usage as I cannot concede that thrive becomes throve, or hive becomes hove and there is no possible way that live becomes love.
So I say, dove, know your place!
Knowing the difference between fewer and less
English is a complex language and there is often confusion between words that seemingly have the same meaning but are particular in their usage. Such is the case with the words fewer and less.
It’s tempting to be lazy about these words.
You might be happy to say, ‘There are less clouds in the sky today’, and most people would know exactly what you meant. But to be technical about it, the correct statement is, ‘There are fewer clouds in the sky today.’
If I say, I have lost less weight this month than last month, the statement is correct. But if I want to talk about the number of kilograms I have dropped, I would say, ‘I have lost fewer kilograms this month than last month.
So what’s the difference? A body or mass of materials is spoken of as less. There is less water in the swimming pool than there was before the rainy season.
But it is correct to say, I have drunk seven cups of water, two cups fewer than yesterday.
Fewer is used in instances where items can be counted as singular units, i.e. in the discussion, clouds, cups, kilograms. Less is used where quantities cannot be broken down into units.
Less is used with abstract nouns such as sunshine, rain, thunder etc.
Here’s an exercise for practice. Fill in fewer or less.
Jane’s wardrobe has _______ clothing in summer than in winter.
Peter has ___________ dogs than his best friend.
Mary wears ___________ perfume on week days.
There is _____________ heat in the mild curry.
Tea is _____________ expenses than coffee.
There are ___________ dollars left after a shopping spree.
How can there be______ money in my account after I paid a deposit?
There are much___________ pieces of paper in that draft document.
Writing good English requires a depth of knowledge of the language.
English is full of tricks: words that sound the same and are spelled differently and words that are spelled the same and have different meanings – and that’s just two.
There are many areas of confusion in the English language so let’s just clear up one.
Licence is a word that is spelled two ways. Licence and license. It starts out being quite simple using licence as the noun and license as the verb. And even that only works if you follow the UK English system. In America, license is used as a verb and a noun.
In UK English all derivatives of the verb from of license are spelled with an S, such as licensing and licensed. It’s really quite tricky so pay close attention to your writing.
If you can’t manage, get hold of an editor or a proofreader to help you out.
Here’s to better English.
In my work as a sub-editor, the only word allowed for an attribution is ‘said’. No, ‘revealed’, no ‘pointed out’, no ‘suggested’, no ‘argued’ – just plain ‘said’.
But for fiction writers the use of the word ‘said’ can become tedious if used over and over again. Eager writers will look for ways to substitute said with other, possibly more descriptive words.
There is a superb list of alternatives to choose from and budding novelists should not be discouraged.
For those who want to get stuck in right away, or write away, here’s a glimpse of just a few quick possibilities.
-Answered (a favourite)
That’s just 10 ways to substitute said and should keep you busy as you fit the respective words to your characters. But getting back to said… You have to be careful that you substitute with purpose. The last thing you want is for your writing to sound forced and artificial.
There’s many a time where a simple said, will do the job just fine.
And at the cost of repeating myself, at the newspaper, said is the only attribution in the text. Here it’s all about simplicity.
And that’s all I have to say, for now.
As a provider of professional English writing services I have always found both a bother in the language. I find that is used in many, many phrases as a redundant word. However grammarians do not seem to have cause to edit this word out and some of the most highly respected publications throw in the word bother with gay abandon, not paying heed to its redundant placing in a sentence.
Having spent many years as a sub-editor working to a ‘less is more’ protocol, every word must count.
Thus both is bothersome because it is so often superfluous. For example, in the sentence ‘Joan and Mary both have measles,’ the sentence can stand and mean the same thing if you write, ‘Joan and Mary have measles’. And, is a very efficient little word and does the job just fine. However, if you write ‘Joan and Mary are sick, they both have measles,’ both is functional in its own right.
If your write,’Catherine has two kids. Both are at nursery school’ both has a perfectly good function. But, in most cases where the word ‘and’ is used to couple two nouns, both is unnecessary and does not add to or clarify the meaning.
I particularly dislike, ‘Both Jake and Bill are top business men’, when ‘Jake and Bill are top businessmen,’ does the job adequately. I do not see a fit purpose for ‘both’ in this sentence.
I urge all practitioners of written English to dispense with an over-reliance on both, and only use it when absolutely necessary.
I also welcome discussion on this topic and would like to learn more about the origins of the usage of the word ‘both’.
All grammarians and practitioners of the English language welcome.