From pardee to wardah: How lazy language is ‘impacting’ readers

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

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Spoken English

Your correspondent (“The nature of language”, Letters, 17/1) accommodates a permissive approach towards what some see as the deterioration in our use of language, on the basis that it is simply evolving. “Ceremoaney” and “territoarey” are annoying examples. Many of the degradations of our spoken language are just plain lazy, and derive from what is heard from US shows and films as a form of cultural imperialism. It is further consolidated by broadcast journalists, including on the ABC (it wouldn’t happen on the BBC).

People are right to demand better quality in the use of language as a useful means of communication. Decry carelessness and malevolence in its misuse or we will fall into a vortex. Stop the tolerance of poor standards and let broadcasters and schools lead the way, and require that they do so.
Clyde Ronan, Yarrawonga

A liddle hiccup
Classically trained, the late Tim Elliott was a fine actor, with a refined accent and deep timbre that made him a favourite for voiceovers and narrations. You might know him as the voice of 60 Minutes for many years. Of course he wanted his daughters to enunciate clearly and lectured them accordingly, especially when the older one would come home mimicking schoolyard speaking patterns. The little one tried hard to do the right thing and Elliott delighted in recounting how she had come in from the garden to get him, “Come on Daddy, come and look at the liddle spiter I have found.”
Rilke Muir, Kensington

On the tip of your tongue
A number of your correspondents lament the loss of pronunciation. The answer, dear readers, is often on the tip of your tongue. Touch your tongue tip to your palate and “pardee” becomes “party”, “wardah” becomes sparkling and pure, and my favourite “vunable” becomes the elegant “vulnerable”, which apparently many of us are. And heaven knows, perhaps we may at last recover Steve Bracks’ “Austrayya” to the name of our country.
Chris Waters, Ormond

Damaging impact
Hooray for your correspondent’s letter on the misuse of the word “impact”, instead of “affect” and “effect”. Of course, most people don’t know the correct way to use these words, and so use “impact” instead. How does this affect you? What effect does this have on you? Too hard to remember, let’s just use “impact” instead.
William Pearce, Mornington

Hold on to the end
My gripe is the dropping of “ly” from adverbs. Sports commentators (whose language influences the young) are often guilty of this. For example, “he ran quick towards the goal”.
Alan Williams, Port Melbourne

Daily mutilation
I can identify with your correspondents regarding the mutilation of so many words by the media. I cringe when I hear Chewsday, Peninshula, Tasmainya. Species should be speeshiz and constable cunstable.
Kevin Howard, Frankston

Hang up
Why are so many people hung up about pronunciation? It’s a natural phenomenon associated with the variations in accents and inflections from different populations who speak the same language.
Russell Brims, Bentleigh East

Sign of the times
When I visited my sister in London I was flattered when her English friends said I didn’t speak with an Australian accent. Then I bought a newspaper and the seller asked me what a pound was worth in Australia these days. I asked him how he knew I was Australian, he said it was how I pronounced The Toymes.
Susan Munday, Bentleigh East

For more reader letters on language, see “And another thing” below.


Fascism echoes
My heartfelt appreciation for Peter Hartcher’s latest piece (“We’re not immune from fascism”, 17/1). I was a child in Britain in the 1930s and 1940s and his article sent shivers down my spine. Hartcher’s incisive analyses and clearly understood prose are examples of excellent Australian journalism and do great credit to your newspaper.
Ros Collins, Elwood

Understanding needed
Peter Hartcher presented the case that far-right extremism and aggressive nationalism is on the rise and needs to be countered. This is agreed but what was missing was an analysis of the fundamental reasons why some people are receptive to the violent and hate-fuelled ideologies of far-right extremism and why others are not. It is not just a simple case of a difference in education.

A society cannot look at people who fall into these rabbit holes with sniggering disdain and simplistic solutions. The how and why must be fully understood and for those who value democracy to not only be active participants in fixing the problem, but to understand that they may need to look inward and change some personal self-interests as well.
Paul Miller, Box Hill South

Including everyone
Peter Hartcher’s article is timely, but fascist memorabilia is only part of the problem. An excellent academic experiment interviewing extremist “fascist” cohorts or disrupters of democracy revealed a major reason was expressed as “I did not belong” (to anyone or anything). It behoves a community, parental and political alert to minimise and stop at the source the people who “do not belong”.
Shirley Videion, Hampton

The real scandal
A silly young man who was already moving towards a political future wearing a uniform at his 21st birthday that he should have known was an unacceptably stupid act is not a scandal. It was a warning of the mindset of a politician who yearned to represent the Coalition and their economic policies that have brought Australia to where we are now.

A scandal is people who are part of, and contribute to, a strong economy, but who are forced to sleep in their cars. A scandal is people in aged care who are underfed and chronically under-serviced. A scandal is the ever increasing transfer of wealth to the wealthy.
Gary Sayer, Warrnambool

Wealth gap a loop
The increasing gap between the rich and the poor to the extent that Oxfam reports just 42 Australian billionaires have increased their combined wealth to $236 billion (“Super-rich cash in as others struggle”, 17/1) is part of a feedback loop of our capitalist system. The rich have surplus money to invest so their capital increases. In contrast, the poor spend all their earnings on living costs and cannot afford investments. The rich can afford to pay more than the poor for items such as housing, which pushes up prices to levels that the poor cannot afford. It is not surprising that the wealth gap is growing so fast.
Leigh Ackland, Deepdene

Police problems
The two reports yesterday, on the Victoria Police union protesting moves to abolish public drunkenness following the coronial inquiry into the preventable death of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day (17/1), and police going unpunished for pepper-spraying and arresting news photographers doing their job (17/1) go to the heart of the underlying cultural problems in this workforce.

That Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt is vociferously opposed to the government’s approach to repealing the law on the basis that it is “negligent and reckless” is breathtaking in the context of the failure in duty of care by police officers, who should have contacted an Aboriginal liaison officer to safely escort Day home to her family (rather than putting her in a jail cell) and a lack of accountability by police officers for the excessive force they use against photographic journalists and the general public alike.
Jelena Rosic, Mornington

Dealing with drunks
Decriminalisation of public drunkenness proposals to use ambulances to ferry home drunks is just absurd. It will simply divert resources from those in medical need and keep paramedics from more important tasks. Put drunks in a taxi and send them off at their own expense.
Martin Newington, Aspendale

Library solution overdue
As a regular and avid user of the Libraries Victoria network, which allows users to borrow books and other media from libraries all over Victoria, I am disappointed that the renewal of the Victorian state government courier service contract is taking so long. Since October last year, library users have been unable to access books from other libraries – except by travelling to the said library, which is sometimes not feasible.

I am just wondering why it is that the tender for this contract was not put out and renegotiated before the old one ended?
Judith Crotty, Dandenong North

Why we don’t split bills
Your correspondent (Letters, 17/01) was shocked to learn that a restaurant they dined at did not split bills. They assert patrons “deserve” the convenience of splitting bills. But has your corespondent considered the inconvenience to others? Splitting bills is time-consuming for the staff who need to process multiple payments for various different items on the invoice (many of which are invariably not paid at the end of the process). It can be a source of longer wait times for patrons.

Yes, it is 2023. It is a year when staff shortages are high during a pandemic recovery. It is also a year when there are many convenient alternative means of splitting payments among diners. Try electronic funds transfer, splitting apps or good old-fashioned cash, for a start.
Thomas Eardley, Fitzroy

Dead don’t come back
How wonderful that the Murray-Darling Basin is “roaring back to life” under La Nina (The Age, 16/1). But UNSW surveys show that while some waterbirds are flourishing, the “game” ducks – those shot for hunting in Victoria – suffered further decline last year. So much for “sustainable” hunting.

Victoria’s hunting agency focuses on the abundance of “all waterbirds” – a category that masks the demise of game species. It reports breeding for “all waterbirds” but fails to report the minimal breeding of game ducks. Shooters hope late breeding will bolster duck numbers. Too bad about the ducklings orphaned by shotgun blasts. Duck shooting is neither sustainable nor humane.
Joan Reilly, Surrey Hills

Progressive challenge
Your correspondent’s claim that it is much easier to be progressive than it is to “live a truly Christian life” does not hold. Rather than being easy, progressive thought requires a regular review of one’s own values, attitudes and often long-held prejudices. It involves listening to and learning from the experiences of others who are experiencing damage from the status quo, then supporting needed changes.

Also, I’m not sure where “unconditional love and forgiveness, honesty and discernment” fit in with discrimination against millions of people, let alone turning a blind eye to child sexual abuse.
Vivienne Bond, Warburton

Louder voices
Labor deserves credit for initiating the move towards a referendum, but once it opened the discussion it left a void rapidly filled by opposition voices. Mark Dreyfus seems now to be addressing this (“Labor challenges Dutton to be ‘upfront’ on Voice”, 16/1).

Mark Dreyfus is right to question Peter Dutton’s motives in demanding more detail on the proposed Voice to Parliament. Peter Dutton will understand the nature of constitutional reform: it is a question of accepting a principle, not debating a detailed plan. He seems to be placating those who support the Voice while simultaneously creating uncertainty to appease those on the right who oppose it. Either way he can sense an opportunity for a political win.

The government can strengthen the “yes” case by providing clear guidance to what is already proposed. It must do this to re-establish its leadership on this critical issue.
Chris Young, Surrey Hills

Mushrooms not needed
Your story on actor Sam Corlett’s new role in Vikings: Valhalla (17/1) states that the Viking berserkers ate hallucinogenic mushrooms before battle. There is not any clear evidence for this theory, and anyone who ingested these mushrooms would probably have run the other way. Many modern historians theorise that they were probably fanatical warriors who worked themselves into a psychological frenzy before the battle.
Jeff McCormack, Javoricko, Czech Republic

Nation’s lifeblood
At the close of 2022, Lifeblood issued a call for Australians to roll up their sleeves and donate blood and plasma for patients who needed it during the festive season. Your response was extraordinary.
Sixty thousand of you from cities, regions, and towns across Australia answered our call and gave up an hour of your time to give the gift of life to someone you will never know.

You smashed records: The largest number of donations in over a decade in a single day, and in a week. And you became part of a very special group, the biggest number of donors we’ve had in Australia in nine years. In 2022, 528,000 of you rolled up your sleeves. We look forward to seeing you in our centres again this year to help us meet the ever-increasing need for blood and plasma.

I want to say a heartfelt thank you to every single blood donor across Australia. Not just from me and the teams at our Victorian Donor Centres, but on behalf of every patient who has received your very precious gift of life.
Stephen Cornelissen, chief executive, Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

And another thing

Words, words, words
Various correspondents have shared their frustrations about language and words. My particular bugbears are “somethink” and “anythink”.
Tim Douglas, Blairgowrie

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Has anyone noticed that Australia has now become Australiaar?
Leigh Ackland, Deepdene

While we are on the subject, one of my biggest gripes is mowen, knowen, growen etc. I used to be known to have mown the grass before it had grown too long!
Vicki Jordan, Lower Plenty

I wonder if I should be eating more on “Chewsdays”.
Heather Barker, Albert Park

To the list of irritating mispro-noun-ciations, we could add nuc-u-lar, twe-nn-y and reco-nise.
Judy Wilkinson, Toorak

A lot of your correspondents seem to be getting their knickers in knots about spelling and pronunciation. Surely, the important thing is that you know and understand what people are saying.
Brian Morley, Donvale

Like your correspondent, I am annoyed by the use of “impact”. Even more annoying is the wordy “in this space”, not to mention the use of “incredible” to mean worthy or surprising, not unbelievable.
Juliet Flesch, Kew

Not only has “died” passed away (Letters, 17/1) but passed away has “passed”.
Liz Dawson, Ringwood North

How lucky are people who have time to worry about being called mate.
Malcolm McDonald, Burwood

I don’t mind being called a guy as long as the speaker pronounces “territory” as in Northern Territ’ry.
Liz Middleton, Clematis

And finally…
Today (17/1), a writer alluded to Melbourne being a “sporting capital”. Surely what is meant is the sports-watching capital. If the former, then health budgets would balance, and hospital beds would be almost empty.
Mark Cleary, Carlton

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