The English Pedant – Too lazy to do it proper

My Way 3

Laziness: one of the key contributors to the changes in language. Some people just can’t be bothered to say things properly.

Or perhaps that is an unkind assessment, attributing the blame to attitude rather than ability. The other way of looking at it is that they don’t have the speech skills to cope with complex words and expressions which require a few nanoseconds of concentration.

Take, for instance, the expression of urgency: “I want it done sooner rather than later”

There is a growing trend to drop the word rather, so it goes “I want it done sooner than later”. We all know what it means, but if you take it literally, what does sooner than later mean? Now.

And that would suit the person issuing the ultimatum perfectly. It’s just nonsense, that’s all, and will have to be explained by teachers for centuries when they find themselves dealing with a student who really thinks about language.

Compare this sort of thing with bringing up a baby. The very young baby can’t use a knife and fork. Do we say, “Okay, who needs them? We’ll all just eat with our hands”?

Something similar is happening with as far as that is concerned, which is being abbreviated to as far as. As far as grammar spelling and punchewation who cares? Again, we know what it means. It just ignores the basis of the expression and relies on a meaning that has become ingrained in the listener.

This sort of thing is not dumbing down – that means doing it deliberately to pander to those who don’t know or care. This is laziness.

There is a musical equivalent in the unaccompanied singing by crowds of supporters during football matches. Here it is a question of rhythm rather than words, and what happens is that the spaces between lines – the beats that you wait through or tap with your foot before starting the next line – are dispensed with. People who love music are offended by the way mob rule takes all the rhythmic beauty out of a song, and surely even the happy hordes in the stands would notice if suddenly their favourite recording stars started doing the same. But give a stadium full of Liverpool supporters their anthem and they will love it and mutilate it at the same time.

All together now:


And you’ll ne verwalk alone you’ll ne verwalk alone.


Sorry, Liverpool fans. It’s just the best known, that’s all.

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