The English Pedant – How trendy are you?




Some people are very impressionable when it comes to new usages of words. They will leap on them as if it were a way of demonstrating their intelligence or at least making themselves attractive.

When whoever it was first said “I hear you” when they meant “I understand what you mean”, such trendies not only heard it but bandied it about with gusto. At about the same time – the late 90s – they also lapped up an expression someone had coined when they meant two people had similar attributes or characteristics: “They’re from the same place”. They dropped “in future” the moment they heard the totally unnecessary “going forward”.

They will leap on words and expressions without thinking them through. And that’s a sign of thoughtlessness.

But then there are those who use new expressions to persuade us that they are modern, forward-thinking people, on the ball but part of the crowd. “See? I’m one of you.”

Their life becomes “a roller coaster” because it makes everyday ups and downs sound more exciting.

British politicians are currently on a mission to use the expression: “it’s a game-changer” in every speech they give, because it makes them sound sporty, alert and “innovative”, to use a vastly overworked and often meaningless word.


Of all the mutant expressions currently worming their way into a new niche in the language, reach out is the most despicable. Until recently it was a needy person who reached out to friends – reached out for help, that is. Now it is being used by people who don’t need much help at all, but want to be seen as vulnerable and worthy of some sympathy and assistance.

When a politician talks about “reaching out”, he or she is reaching out for nothing more or less than your vote, your rubber-stamp, your approval. He is attempting to shrug off the intelligent public’s natural contempt for his kind. He’s saying it is tough out there and even if he might come across as slimy, manipulative and underhand, he is just Mrs Smith’s little boy doing his best in a dog-eat-dog world.

So beware the insincere person “reaching out” to you. They might well be reaching into your pocket rather than your heart.

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