Don’t ‘medal’ with the ‘peddle’!

I don’t regard myself as a pedant, and I try to avoid conversations that begin with “now, when I was a lad…” or “in my day…..” or even worse “in the good old days……”, when English was written and spoken properly…….but I have to confess that I am frequently amused by current uses and abuses of language.

We’ve all seen, by the roadside, garages that advertise “MOT’s while you wait” or signs that warn you a road is “Unsuitable forApostrophe HGV’s”. Now the abuse of the apostrophe is so gaily rampant these days as to prompt a group of language conservationists to form the Apostrophe Protection Society…….I kid you not. If you are guilty of abusing an apostrophe in a public forum, they will hunt you down, ridicule you in public, and make an example of you before the international English-speaking community. If you get away with just a life-sentence in a high security lock-up, count yourself lucky!

Now, as some of you know, I take a ‘moderate’ interest in all things cycling, and I read a lot from a variety of periodicals, memoirs, travelogues, reviews and biographies. Cyclists, in general, are a relatively literate bunch. Some may lack imagination when it comes to writing about their reflections on a route or journey they have enjoyed but, generally, they can form sentences and

Photo by Hakeem Photography

Photo by Hakeem Photography

paragraphs, know roughly where full-stops, commas and apostrophes go, and get most of their spellings correct…….

Now, I did say only “most”, because there are a lot of pedallers out there who still can’t distinguish their ‘peddle’ from their ‘pedal’, or their ‘peddlers’ from their ‘pedallers’. I have just this minute read the following in an article: “….a tandem does really need two peddlers”. Now I really want to know if a pair of tandemists “will peddle their tandem to a car boot sale, so that they can pedal their wares”……or is it the other way around?

Excuse the unintended puns, but I hate tinkering with people’s (or is it peoples’) thinking, because to do so can mess with their ‘cycle-logical’ equanimity, but I really do need to know, when I climb on my bike, am I ‘hawking’ or ‘spinning cranks’?

Elsewhere in the world of cycling, there have been other developments in the use of???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? language (and not just in cycling either). I’ve always thought of ‘podium’ only as a noun, but I now have to bow down to the superior intellect of our celebrated TV commentators who will quite happily say things like: “….now has Chris Froome done enough to podium at the end?”.

And if you always thought that ‘medal’ was only a noun……well, think again. It does actually exist as a verb meaning ‘to decorate with a medal’, but its usage has now been stretched to mean ‘ to win a medal’. Throughout the 2012 Olympics, we kept hearing things like: “….Wiggins is approaching the finishing line, and it looks as if he’s done enough to medal…..”….or is that to meddle? (Now I’m really confused).

So, what would the BBC’s erstwhile Brains Trust (or was that Brain’s Trust?) have said about all this?

 

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About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on October 9, 2014, in Aspects of Britain and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. That’s interesting. Like you, the abuse of the language bothers me as well.

    • …..I know many who enjoy the occasional rant about the misuse of language. I, on the other hand, prefer to adopt the role of the bemused onlooker, occasionally appreciating that some so-called ‘abuse’ is, in fact, a natural development where language is adapted to cover new usage. Before the advent of mobile phones, for instance, I don’t think the verb ‘to text’ existed.

  2. I try not to get too upset by everyday language abuse, but I do get annoyed when the perpetrators are those who should be competent. Journalists, authors and the like. And I have a rule that I don’t buy anything from someone who can’t spell it. Pity the coffee shop trying to peddle me expresso’s.

    • Agree entirely……but I would expect a car mechanic to be more skilled with his tools than a pen….so I might let him do my MOT…..so long as he doesn’t leave the apostrophe under the bonnet!

  3. Thank you Frank for your amusing thoughts on this vexing issue of the misuse of our beloved English language.
    Herein I have to proceed with caution as I am an “old boy” and a graduate from ( should that be of ? ) the Wiltshire centre of educational excellence, Potterne Primary School.

    I have previously immersed myself in hot water when I ventured onto the Chippenham Wheelers website to complain about the term “FIXIE” ( obviously a word to describe a drug crazed servant of the fairy queen ) when the unfortunate correspondent was intending to refer to a “FIXED WHEEL BICYCLE”.
    The ensuing furore resulted in me having to buy that happless individual a pint at the club dinner in order to enjoy the rest of the evening without too much mishap.

    Keep up the good work Frank. Your travels and writings vicariously fulfill the ambitions of us mortals who are not blessed with the time opportunities to carry them out in person.

    Phil Lewis, Chippenham and District Wheelers.

  4. Loved this. I get annoyed when the punctuation errors are made by those who should know better, eg journalists. I did a blog post about sporting journalists and in that post referred to a book written on the very subject of punctuation. You were probably following my blog at that stage but here is the link in case you missed it. http://suth2.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/get-her-off-the-pitch-a-great-read/

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