Half-arsed hyperboles are one of the worst things ever

Recently on ABC TV, newsreader Jeremy Fernandes referred to Nelson Mandela’s memorial service as “What’s thought to be one of the largest gatherings of world leaders in South Africa’s history”. This hyperbolic vagueness is nothing out of the ordinary. Our language harbours a growing cancer of over-the-top uncertainty.

I keep adding things to the list, so here’s the list

People who think the phrase ‘as a mother…’ lends moral authority to anything that comes after Media outlets that invite non-scientists to ‘have your say’ on topics of scientific debate People who say ‘…[person] that…’ or ‘…[non-person] who…’ (I’m looking at you, Tyra Banks) Inbox Zero zealots who are so pleased with their efforts to…

Sloppy, vague sentences are ‘the new normal’ for Australian newspapers

Australian journalists either no longer know how to write clear, concise and grammatical sentences, or they no longer care. Every day, in ever newspaper in the land, we read sloppy, vague sentences written in the passive voice with hazy attribution and bad grammar. I’m going to pick on one example in particular, but if you…

The ten types of comments on news articles

One major criticism of reality TV shows, especially in the pre-MasterChef era, was they profited from encouraging and rewarding all the worst aspects of human behaviour. I think it’s time we recognised comments on online news and opinion websites have exactly the same problem.

Why South American magic realist novelists shouldn’t write IT case studies

Perched at the top of a towering cliff that plunges into the roiling waters of the North Pacific, at the edge of a teeming rainforest, is the headquarters of Grupo Nacional de Chocolates S.A., a leading manufacturer and distributor of confectionery-based solutions. The ancient, crumbling edifice dating back to the time of the conquistadors houses…

Not so sceptical my brains will fall out

Tim Dean has written a wonderfully reasonable and thoughtful piece on why conservatives are more likely to be climate change sceptics. I am somewhat more suspicious of their motives. As you can imagine, this article provoked a flood of outraged, incendiary, irrational commentary from conservative climate change deniers. Indeed, many climate deniers say their inability…

I do not think it means what you think it means

As computers and internet technology have become mainstream, technology terms have entered the language. But the translation is not always accurate. As a professional pedant, it makes me turn purple the number of times I hear people misusing the following two terms: 1. Hard drive What a lot of people think it means: The box…

Stupid conservative numbers game is no proof of bias

Gavin Atkins’s post on ABC’s The Drum is the latest in a line of conservatives playing stupid numbers games to ‘prove’ that the ABC (or some other media organisation) has an inherent left-wing bias. In fact, all it demonstrates is that Atkins and his fellow cultural warriors do not have the faintest clue about the purpose of journalism.

Newsflash: lefty novelist-academic is elitist wanker

At his closing address for the 2010 Sydney Writers’ Festival, Peter Carey said a lot of laudable things about the importance of reading and the value of good teachers. But underlying his speech was a severe, elitist disdain for ordinary people who, one guesses, do not read Peter Carey novels. The cult of book readers…

Significant growth in substantial uniqueness

In this marvellous post, Tim Phillips rails against the proliferation of meaningless filler words in media releases. Vague non-words like significant and substantial look like they’re telling us something, but they aren’t. They’re useful for people who have a deadline but no clear idea what they’re writing about; or people who know the numbers, don’t…

Neologism of the week: shitkansen

Shitkansen (n) A slow or low-quality train. Portmanteau of ‘shit’ or ‘shitcan’ + ‘shinkansen’, Japanese high-speed train. Earliest Googleable usage: December 2008. Dennis Vranic Japan has Shinkansen, we have SHITkansen Often used in reference to the Sydney-to-Newcastle train journey (eg, Aaron Hewett and Marcus Westbury).