The English Pedant. Belt and braces

Return is a word that does the work of two if the alternative is go back, but when did we lose confidence in return’s ability to convey that? When exactly did we start to talk about returning back somewhere?

dictionary 2

It’s a rhetorical question, because so many of the misuses of English just appear and spread like wildfire through the population, before threatening to make the move into people who should know better: writers, broadcasters and those in public positions whose utterances come to our attention whether we like it or not.

And how do we stop it? We can’t. Even pointing it out, as I am here, does little more than attract derision in some quarters.

So does talking about it in private – but note that it’s so. Not so too, which is currently sweeping the English-speaking world. You enjoy the language? So do I. Not so too do I. Where did this start? We’ll have to return back to the start of the article (notice an unnecessary back in there?). But the media are full of it in sentences like: ‘the Prime Minister is strongly against the idea – so too the Home Secretary’.

This sort of thing is sometimes referred to as a “belt and braces” approach, i.e. you have two mechanisms to prevent your trousers from falling down.

Another example is the verb “to miss”, as in “You’re going to miss me when I’m gone”.

In that case, it’s “you’re going to miss having me around”, but there is a trend towards adding a negative, so it becomes “you’re going to miss not having me around”.

Please note: the dictionaries will simply report that people are doing these things. They won’t say it’s wrong. I’m just saying, that’s all.


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