Am I the only one who finds the phrase ‘loved ones’ grates like chalk on a blackboard? It’s now the standard platitude wheeled out by insensate reporters and politicians to denote the bereaved with a mixture of croc tears and feigned empathy . How do they know that mother, father, siblings, aunties, uncles and cousins are happy to be called loved ones; perhaps they aren’t. Perhaps they weren’t loved but despised, perhaps they are only too glad to be rid of the sullen teenager, the irascible parent, the miserly great-aunt.
Like ‘hard-working families’, so beloved of David Cameron, like every cliché, it has become meaningless. My late father, a great newspaperman
and pernickety about words to the point of obsessiveness, read all the dailies over morning tea and biscuits with a sharp HB pencil at the ready casting an eagle eye over solecisms, spelling mistakes, non sequiturs and, worst of all, clichés. His own paper, was a mess of tears, underlining, exclamation marks and scribbles. He usually left for work, driving his own Fiat, weighed down by the prospect of the editorial meeting with his staff, most of whom had no feeling for style or language. Father knew and loved his literature- Shakespeare, the Lakeland poets, Tennyson, George Borrow, Dickens and Hardy- and tossed out great chunks at will. “What do you mean by ‘sort of?’ It either is one thing or the other. And never say ‘I mean’. What do you mean by ‘I mean’?”
The OED was his faithful companion, as was Roget’s. He would have been intrigued by the avalanche of new words (this year alone 500 additions). I think he’d have liked the multiforms of “guerilla” from guerilla gardening to guerilla theatre (he might have used that in an ironic sense to describe the high jinks in Parliament). But what would he made of yarnbombing, staycation, sext and cisgender?
He might have been intrigued by tenderpreneuer (South African origin to denote a person who uses his/her political connections to secure government contracts and tenders for personal advantage).
I think he would never have used expressions like prepone or topper. They sound ugly. And he’d certainly have scorned POTUS and FLOTUS as being much too redolent of potbelly and fart. He was a man of taste and conventional in his fastidiousness about sights, smells and sounds.