Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Be Careful!

I’ve never come across a situation in my life when it’s useful to say “be careful”.

Mostly, people say it when you’re doing something potentially dangerous, in which case “being careful” is probably something you intend to do anyway.  And indeed, shouting “be careful” at someone walking a tightrope may cause them to turn around to look at you whilst working out what you shouted causing them to lose their balance and fall off said tightrope.

I see this in the same category as saying “have a safe flight” to someone about to board a plane.  Unless you’re saying it to the pilot, the person you’re talking to is unlikely to have much control over the safety of the flight, so why say it at all.

I guess it’s short hand for “I wish you a safe flight” and “be careful” is short hand for “I don’t want you to hurt yourself”.

But this doesn’t inject any “point” into saying it.  Just because I know someone doesn’t want my plane to crash, I am not going to change my view of the flight or my behaviour on it.  Neither would I do so if someone said to me “I hope your plane crashes” just as I was boarding.  Neither is going to make any difference to whether the plane crashes or not.

So, be warned, if I’m ever doing anything risky or dangerous and you’re watching – don’t say “Be Careful”!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Yay! Angry Blog Posting ftw

I hate certain words.  It’s irrational as I don’t have any particular dislike of the change of language over time.  However, there are certain words which irritate the hell out of me, and maybe now is the time for me to exorcise that hatred.

What exactly does “Yay!” mean.  It’s something people type in online conversations but it’s not something they’d ever actually say to a real person (I hope).  Apparently, it’s something you “say” when you’re happy or you want to celebrate something that’s just been said to you, but it really irritates me.  I have images of American teen movies where the hero has just saved the world in some ridiculous way and his friends all shout “yay!” in celebration.  What’s wrong with saying “that’s great news!” or “fantastic!” or using a real word?

From one word, let’s turn to a pair of words which seem to have become online antonyms even though they don’t mean opposite things. The words are “win” and “fail”.  Apparently, if something goes wrong, or someone makes a mistake and you report it on twitter, it’s obligatory to stick “#fail” at the end of your tweet.  Or maybe “#epicfail” if it’s a big one.  And recently, I’ve noticed “#win” cropping up as an antithetic bastard cousin of “#fail”.  I realise that twitter is somewhat limited by 140 characters but I’m capable of working out whether the gasman failing to turn up, or you computer exploding is a good or bad thing without the need to tag it “#fail” or “#'win”

And from “win” we travel nicely to “ftw”.  I don’t mind abbreviations/acronyms (now is not the place to debate the difference, I know, so let’s use both).  I often use btw, asap, np in text messages or emails.  But you’ll never catch me saying ftw.   I know what it stands for, and I sort-of know what it’s trying to mean, but I don’t think I quite get what is actually means.  And that’s my problem with it – with all of these words in fact – it’s not that I find them particularly offensive or feel that they are challenging the sanctity of the English language; it’s simply that I don’t understand what they actually mean or what they are adding to the meaning of what’s being said.

I’m wordy.  Loquacious, you may say.  But I strive to ensure that every word I use works for its existence.  Endlessly long sentences strung together from words innumerable in order to fill the space on the page without adding meaning to the expression of the writer yet taking time to read and more time to forget <pause for breath> do nothing for me.  Every word must be there for a reason.  Take the word away, and if you’re missing a nuance of the sentence previously present then put the word back; it was necessary.  But if removing the word removes nothing from the meaning of the sentence, then take it away as it shouldn’t have been there in the first place.  And that’s even more important a point to remember when the space you have to fill with words is limited.

I’m no saint when it comes to this, and trawling back through this blog I’m sure you could find many places where I’ve strayed from my own rules.  #fail