As regular readers will know, we now have two GOGs, our Grumpy Old Git and Grumpy Old Gal, who occasionally pontificate on some of life’s irritations. Back in March, our Grumpy Old Gal had a bit of a rant about speech on the radio. This obviously struck a chord with readers, as we received possibly our largest postbag to date (well, this is 2021, so it was of course a clogged up inbox…). We have now had the time to collate the responses and have published them below the original piece …


I don’t know about you, but this Covid period has been testing my patience in all directions. Take radio, for example. Have you noticed how every person being interviewed seems to start their replies with the word “so”?   “So” adds nothing to the conversation, it just gets in the way. They might as well begin their reply with a real starter.  Imagine the scenario:

Interviewer: “Minister, the price of diesel is rising exponentially. Why is this?”
Minister: “Prawn cocktail, Sarah, the reason is….”

I rest my case.  Stop doing it please, broadcasters.

Generally, I enjoy speakers using their local dialect pronunciation. That said, there is a developing issue of two of the letters of the alphabet, which seem to be evolving in new and unwelcome directions. The first of the letters is ‘H’.  Over the years, I have come to terms with ‘H’ occasionally disappearing from the beginning of one word and appearing unnecessarily at the start of another. Something being described as ” ‘orrible” perhaps, or someone making a “hexhibition” of themselves.  Now ‘H’ also seems to be elbowing its way between the letters ‘S’ and ‘T’, replacing sibilance with a lazy ‘sh’ sound. This gives us such examples as “The shtudents are in the shtreets”. I would suggest that they start the word with a snake noise, except that the speakers concerned would probably hish.

As if this were not bad enough, simultaneously the letter ‘J’ is trying to replace the letter ‘D’, when it is followed by vowels producing an “ee-oo” sound.  So now we have “the jew on the grass” and Prince Philip being retitled as “The Juke of Edinburgh.”

Why is this happening?  I have heard one theory that it began with exemplars in the media who by a freak chance were all suffering with loose dentures, but this seems far-fetched. A more likely reason is that those same exemplars were having a snack while they were talking….

Another interesting pronunciation diversion that has crept in relates to the word “ask”.  Increasingly on the radio and television, this seems be becoming “axe”, bringing a whole new meaning to the old saying “If you want to know the time, ask a policeman”.

Now, I don’t mind a bit of change, honestly I don’t.  But, when it happens, I do like that change to be for the better. These developments aren’t.

GOG, March 2021


And the replies:

It drives us mad too as does the inappropriate, much overused “iconic”. Journalists and broadcasters presumably had to demonstrate English Language and a Media Studies qualifications to get their jobs, yet they don’t seem to know any other adjective! Almost as annoying as “in the firing line” when what they really mean is “in the line of fire”. I think I had better check my blood pressure then have a lie down. Yours, DT

There certainly some expressions and pronunciations that annoy me.  HarASS, deCADE, and the over-used ‘Wow’.  But most of all ‘haitch’. GW

Yes, I shout at the radio and television and communications… “So” Is (so) widespread now that I want to turn the radio off when anyone starts that way. What about Eggsit and Breggsit.  Drives me mad!  Do they have eggs-husbands and eggs-wives? Also mischievious.  It is mis-cheiv-ous, where has this extra ‘I’ come from. As for so many of the Uk population popping apostrophes around with abandon when it is a straight ford ‘plural’ – even the Guildford Borough council is guilty of that, to their shame… GC

I fully agree with your comments – well said. I am REALLY fed up with nearly every descriptive statement these days being strung with “REALLY”. This emphasis now REALLY appears to dominate every commentator, whether sport related or in other subjects. It REALLY must be reduced and other words of emphasis (which used to be used), brought back into the English language. It requires a REAL effort to remove the level of misuse. I`m sure you REALLY can help to change this to save us all – REALLY! All the best, GH

I’ve never read an article, from beginning to end, so rapidly and, then, likewise promulgated the message. (Great word ‘promulgated’). And, come to think of it, blasted off a thank you email (this one). Spookily, I’d been moaning about the very same annoyances, to my friendly group of Grumpy Old Farts, just yesterday. Obviously you don’t want to point fingers, but my message did, and included words, to the effect, “and BBC English is not what it was.” However, I do feel you missed the opportunity to elaborate on the ‘H’ irritation, which is particularly prominent at the moment. The sounding of the ‘H’ (‘haitch’) in NHS. I even heard it recently in RHS. NB. There is nothing more comforting in being a Grumpy Old Anything, if the cause is worthy. RB

Spot on! All of your examples have long irritated me and I’m sure masses of others so (that’s legitimate ‘so’) I fully expect you will be inundated by ‘pet hates’. So, herewith my longstanding one, predating the pandemic by decades: It’s ‘different FROM’, not ‘different to’, nor different any other preposition. With every frequent misuse on tv it’s difficult not to bark ‘FROM’! Another ‘grammaversion’ of sorts, relating to the letter ‘H: on it’s own, it is pronounced ‘aitch’ NOT ‘Haitch’. More recently the regular response to the greeting ‘How are you? has become ‘I’m good’. To which the rejoinder could and rightly should be ‘I didn’t ask about your morals, good or bad, I was asking (definately not axing!) about your welfare! As for why it’s happening, surely it’s because of the expansion of the ‘airwaves’ in so many ways has resulted in (hope this doesn’t sound arrogant) less educated voices being heard and copied. . I wholly concur with your last paragraph. PS A related observation: have you noticed how many people, in Central Surrey at least, pronounce Merstham (Redhill suburb) as Merstram? I first noticed this when playing for a Merstham football team in the 1980s and it still pertains! CB

… yes I am. First of all I can’t understand most of the people on the radio. They all seem to be transmitting from home under a blanket. My pet hate is ‘roadmap’. To me a roadmap is something I use to navigate from A – B when travelling in a car. What is wrong with ‘plan’ – short, sweet and to the point. As for ‘h’. Do we really need it to be pronounced ‘H aitch’. Can we please hear when there are 2 ‘Ts’, 2 Ls, etc., in a word. The one thing that would make people more employable would be to have compulsory elocution lessons in schools (along with tuition in manners, deportment, diet, public speaking – that would do away with everything being punctuated with ‘like’ – and many more things too numerous to mention. One last grump. Joggers who run on huffing and puffing past everybody – never standing aside for walkers. Urghhh From another GOG(ess) EA

Dear Grumpy Old Gal, So, I am not so bothered about ‘so’: I think it’s the modern version of ‘er’ or ‘erm’, although I agree with your other points. What bothers me is the gradual Americanisation of our language: ‘levverage’ instead of ‘leeverage’ (who in this country says ‘levver’?), ‘specialty’ for ‘speciality’ and, worst of all, ‘normalcy’ for ‘normality’. Ugh! TN

The most irritating thing that I hear these days, especially on the radio, is a presenter saying “at 7.30am in the morning” or “it will be on at 7pm in the evening”. Surely we all know that am is the morning and pm is in the afternoon and evening? This seems a recent thing. I’m sure they used to say 7.30am or 7.30 in the morning but not both! Yours, being a little bit grumpy, NV

1) FOR FREE 😡😡😡😡😡😡! 2) The use of “of”! E.g. I would OF gone, or You could OF eaten that!!! 😡😡 3) The complete ignorance related to the use of the APOSTROPHE 😡😡😡😡😡 I was a national newspaper proof reader in the 1960s! Does such a job still exist – it needs to – the BBC News website has glaring errors every day😡😡😡 How’s that? I feel a bit better now!!! Keep it up! CM

Well didn’t I just love your article on the above subject. Not only do I frequently shout at the radio, but also the TV – especially Pointless contestants – who use the irritating “Sooh” intro! For similar reasons, I also shout out loud (or silently, depending where I am) at people who do the following: a) Pronounce ‘H’ as Haitch, even though they probably wouldn’t with the word ‘hour’. I’m going to design and wear a T-Shirt with the slogan, “There’s no ‘H’ in aitch. Spread the word!” b) Say ‘of’ instead of ‘have’, as in, “I could of.” c) Use American pronunciation instead of English, as in, har-rass, skedule, levverage. I call this Bronxism. d) Say PIN number, when the ‘N’ stands for Number. They wouldn’t say, Personal Identification Number Number, or British Telecom Telecom, or British Broadcasting Corporation Corporation, etc. e) Suffer from AQI (Australian Question Intonation, aka Uptalk or Upspeak). This is now sweeping the UK and is affecting people across all socio-demographic groups – especially younger people and also those working in TV and radio. Anyway, looking on the bright side, I do feel the superfluous use of ‘like’ is on the wane… or is it just me? Best wishes, DG

Yes, there are things which make me shout at the radio. A few examples :- The pronunciation of the word “harassed”, with the stress on the second syllable. Stress should be on the first syllable. Use of the phrase ” in terms of “. In a recent 2-minute interview a respondent used it more than a dozen times. In all my 81 years I have never needed to use it ! The word ” to ” has become ” ter “. I don’t shout at the TV as I haven’t got one. Cheers, PM

I am certainly not the most grammatically correct person on this planet but I had to write GOG as  I do so agree with everything you write in Talking Point in the March issue of Vantage Point.  In fact I was delighted to realise that I am not alone in being so irritated by the points you raise. Two other broadcasting irritations, either radio or television, are ‘look’ and ‘Wow’ . People being interviewed often begin a response with ‘look.’  That would be absolutely acceptable if they were showing a graph or plan but they are normally filmed in the street or in a radio  interview. In addition, when someone is told or shown something they like they have to go into a paroxysm of ‘wow’ and really elongate the middle vowel. I could go on but realise that would show me up to be a grumpy, nit-picking old girl!!! Regards, JL

…. Well, yes I am and at the tellie! I totally agree with GOG (not sure I know what GOG is –Godalming & Guildford perhaps?). But what also really gets to me is when people say things like, “This is a huge nother mess”. Nother is not a word in the English language. It’s okay to split your infinitive but not to split a word in a sentence!! A grammatical error that cannot be forgiven. AH

Good article. This is mainly an age thing. I am pretty ancient now, and can think of many cases where the language as well as enunciation have changed since my youth. Obvious examples are that ‘gay’ no longer means ‘joyful’ and ‘cool’ does not usually mean ‘not warm’. But language constantly changes and always has, and it is futile for us fogies to try to correct other people’s speech to that of our own youth. With the amazing technological advances of the past 50 years language change has accelerated with the introduction of new words and meanings that those who were brought up during that period take for granted, leaving many of us older ones way behind. Any of your readers who are familiar with French may realise that their language has changed even more than ours during only the past 30 years, and Academicians of the Academie Francaise, those most severe protectors of their language, must be tearing their hair out. While I am about it, can people please stop saying ‘if I were to tell the truth’ as if everything they have said up to that point is a lie? And have you noticed that everything now is ‘incredible’ or ‘incredibly’, when in most cases all the speaker means is very, sometimes extremely, but rarely truly incredible? And what about the progressive replacement of ‘number’ with ‘amount’, ‘lie’ with ‘lay’ in the present tense, amaaaaazing etc etc etc? Need I go on? From another of those grumpy old sods. JT

Yes, I most certainly agree with your outlining the deplorable use of our wonderful language on both radio and TV. I am constantly irritated by cricket commentators who appear not to understand that there re two “t’s” in the word twenty. “Twenny more runs needed” is an example that is so frequently heard. On one occasion I heard in a BBC news bulletin reference to “ The Catholic Archbishop of Westminister”! I emailed the BBC with my astonishment but received no response, and it was repeated in the next news bulletin. Best wishes, BS

Sir, I am with you on the increasing misuse of ‘so’ to start a sentence. Can we add to this the use, or rather misuse, of the word ‘literally’. Many are guilty of this, but Piers Morgan is probably the worst offender. But what really grates to these old ears is when the words ‘to’ and ‘for’ are pronounced ‘ter’ and ‘fer’ respectively. Our Prime Minister is very much a guilty party, surprising with his education, but Ben Fogle comes a close second. Please continue to keep up our standards. With best regards, JB

Dear G.O.G., I agree with all that you said in the latest V. I have two more pet hates: one is hearing people on TV spelling out a word that contains the letter ‘h’ and pronouncing it ‘haitch’. I can remember, quite early on in my schooldays, hearing a teacher telling us that ‘h’ is always pronounced ‘aitch’. My other gripe is hearing people say ‘newkiller’’ when they mean ‘nuclear’; not that we hear it said very often nowadays. Even George W. Bush said it wrongly. I’m looking forward to your next comments. Yours truly, EE

Dear GOG, It is a relief to know that I am not alone in shouting at the radio, in my case at Radio 4. The almost universal use of ‘so’ at the start of an answer irritates me almost as much as the presenters who greet their audience with a cheery ‘hello there’ as if they were talking to a dog or a small child. What is wrong with a plain ‘hello’ or even better ‘good morning/afternoon/evening’? And where local dialects are concerned, I too welcome them unless they serve to mangle the language. My pet hate is the increasing use of ‘Estuarian English’ by presenters and ‘trendy’ politicians, with the silent ‘t’ of the glottal stop and the transformation of the letter ‘l’ into something resembling an ‘ew’ sound (as in middew, hospitew and capitew). It must be my age, but lately I find myself in increasing sympathy with Professor Higgins of ‘My Fair Lady’ fame, when he asks ‘Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?’ Why indeed! With regards, JM

Dear GOG, You are not alone in shouting at the radio. The one that causes my husband and I to shout in unison is the misuse of the words “less” and “fewer”, especially when those who are educated and are being interviewed for their expert knowledge persist in using “less” when it should be “fewer” e.g. less boys, less opportunities etc. It drives us demented. If you want another it is the use of “Me and X” instead of “X and I” I could go on but I won’t. ML