May I have a word?

The Observer - - Comment & Analysis - Jonathan Bou­quet

The shift­ing pat­terns of English: Christ­massy cas­cades of trains I find lit­tle more cheer­ing than a heart­felt plea from a fel­low grump, and step­ping boldly for­ward this week is John Wil­liams, who wrote de­plor­ing the ad­ding of “y” to nouns to make ad­jec­tives.

He lays the blame at the door of EH Shep­ard and his il­lus­tra­tion of the Hun­dred Acre Wood – “floody place” in par­tic­u­lar. “Christ­massy” he finds par­tic­u­larly noi­some, fol­lowed by “chock­ablocky”, “boily-hotty”, “matchy­matchy”, “coun­trysidey”, “ware­housey” and “vibey”, ex­e­crable coinages he has gath­ered from tele­vi­sion pro­grammes and over­heard con­ver­sa­tions.

He asks in de­spair: “Can any­thing be done to halt the habit be­fore it is too late?” I fear that the an­swer is a de­press­ing and re­sound­ing no, but I’m very happy to share his griev­ance. My bug­bear this week is from South West­ern Rail­way, which could teach the Span­ish In­qui­si­tion a thing or two. Cour­tesy of its web­site comes the fol­low­ing: “We are pre­par­ing to de­liver ad­di­tional ca­pac­ity for the ben­e­fit of cus­tomers… 90 ad­di­tional Class 442 ve­hi­cles which are presently be­ing re­fur­bished can be pro­gres­sively in­tro­duced into ser­vice in ex­ist­ing timeta­bles to al­low other trains to be cas­caded else­where on our net­work.”

“Cus­tomers”? No, I’m a pas­sen­ger. “Cas­caded”? I think of cas­cades as be­ing wa­ter­falls, nat­u­ral beau­ties easy on the eye, not sev­eral hun­dred tons of trains de­scend­ing on my head from a great height. The message goes on to say that the com­pany “will be de­liv­er­ing an in­crease in stan­dard class seat­ing ca­pac­ity through in­ter­nal re­con­fig­u­ra­tion”. So it’s farewell first class, wel­come to cat­tle class. And then I will get even more boily-hotty than usual as I await the 7.46 to Wa­ter­loo.

‘Floody place’ from EH Shep­ard’s orig­i­nal map.

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