2001-2008
Home
Main
- About TFT
Friday Thing Archive
- Politics
- Media
- Culture and Society
- War On Terror
- People
- Places
- World
- Popped Clogs
- Music
- Books
- Film
- Etc
Help And Info
- Contact Details
- Advertising
- Jobs
- Privacy Policy
- XML Feed

Home > People

Potatoes and apostrophes

29 June 2005

This week the English language came under attack from two quite distinct but both very silly and patently self-serving quarters. On the one hand, linguist Kate Burridge, who has a book she wants people to buy, thinks the possessive apostrophe should be abolished. On the other hand, the British Potato Society, who have an industry they want to reinvigorate, want the term 'couch potato' removed from the OED. Neither are remotely serious about their stated aims, but at least the potato people are trying to push a halfway decent product.

Burridge is so desperate to duplicate the success of Lynne Truss that she would claim that the letter Q should be replaced with a swastika if she thought it'd pull in a few more readers. She may yet do it. In the meantime, as well as the apostrophe nonsense, she is campaigning, rigorously and transparently, to have the catchphrase 'yeah-but-no-but' introduced to the Collins Dictionary. But why stop there? If we're doing inane catchphrases, 'I'm free!' has certainly stood the test of time. As have 'mmm, Betty', 'I've started so I'll finish' and 'yabba-dabba-do', but unless Burridge genuinely wants our dictionaries to weigh half a tonne and be full of crap, then it's all just pointless time-wasting and shameless self-promotion. It is with this in mind that we have approached the OED with the following suggestion: 'to burridge', meaning to disseminate potentially provocative but wholly insincere opinions throughout the media in an effort to attract attention and, ideally, personal wealth.

With regard to the possessive apostrophe, you might just as well claim to want to abolish the question mark, or take all the handles off cups and doors. Why turn your back on something that makes one aspect of your life easier? As Lynne Truss so correctly and eloquently points out, dropping something merely because it is misused by morons would be 'capitulating to ignorance'. As would shelling out for Burridge's book, we fear. The final word on punctuation to Karen on the BBC talkboards: 'Languages would be very difficult to learn if we did not have punctuation, so lets keep it.' Here here Karen

Meanwhile, the potato people - essentially, a bunch of farmers and consultants, an MP and a TV cook - actually went so far as to march on Parliament on Monday in an attempt to oust the term 'couch potato' from the lexicon. Unfortunately, the publicity that has surrounded their antics has inadvertently reminded those who hadn't used it for years what a delightful and perfectly apposite expression it really is. It has also introduced the phrase to a whole new generation of sedentary, chip-fat twelve-year olds, who will hopefully latch onto it like a fist full of Pringle-grease and make it as great and as common a buzzword as it once was. If nothing else, that would show those bolshy farmers to stick to planting chips and not to tinker with things they plainly don't understand.



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

Subscribe to The Friday Thing for free


 ABOUT THE FRIDAY THING
Bad words ahead The Friday Thing is a weekly email comment sheet. Casting a cynical eye over the week's events, it is rarely fair and never balanced.

A selection of articles from each week's issue appear online, but to enjoy the full Thing, delivered by email every Friday - as well as access to almost five years of back issues - you'll need to subscribe. It's absolutely free.

READERS WRITE
"Razor-sharp comment and gossip." - The Sunday Times

"Hilariously cynical..To describe it as 'irreverent' is to do the newsletter an injustice." - The Observer

"Sharp, intelligent, opinionated, uncompromising and very, very funny. Just like 'Private Eye' used to be." - Alec McKelland

"Wicked" - Channel 4

"Ace" - Time Out

"'We rise once again in advocacy of The Friday Thing. We realize that some of you may be unwilling to spend [your money] on plain-text comment, but you're only depriving yourself." - The Minor Fall, The Major Lift

"Subscribing to this at the beginning of the year was undoubtedly one of the better decisions I've made. Superlative, and utterly marvellous. I look forward to Fridays now, because I can't wait for the next issue. Fucking fucking brilliant." - Meish.org

"Featuring writers from The Observer, Smack The Pony and The 11 O'Clock Show... will continue to attract new subscribers sight unseen" - NeedToKnow

"The Friday Thing is so good it's stopping me from doing a bunk of a Friday afternoon." - Annie Blinkhorn (The Erotic Review)

"So now" - The Evening Standard

"Damn it, you rule. May you never, ever back down." - Paul Mayze

"Ace" - PopJustice

"Snarky" - Online Journalism Review

"Can you please stop making me laugh out loud... I'm supposed to be working, you know!" - Tamsin Tyrwhitt

"Your coverage of stuff as it spills is right on the money." - Mike Woods

"Popbitch with A-Levels." - Tim Footman

"In an inbox full of trite work-related nonsense, TFT shines from under its subject heading like the sun out of Angus Deayton's arse." - Nikki Hunt

"A first rate email. It's become an integral part of my week, and my life would be empty and meaningless without it (well, *more* empty and meaningless anyway)." - Mark Pugh

"Genius, absolute bit of class. And you can quote me on that." - Lee Neville

"If you're hipper than hell, this is what you read." - MarketingSherpa

"The most entertaining email I've had all week. Great tone." - Matthew Prior

"A massive and engrossing wit injection." - idiotica.co.uk

"I wouldn't know satire if it bit me on the arse. But I did like the Naomi Campbell joke." - Matt Kelly (The Mirror)

"Has had an understandably high profile among people who know about these things." - Guy Clapperton (Guardian Online)

"Satirical sideswipes at the burning issues of the day." - Radio 5 Live

"Puerile and worthless... Truly fabulous... Do read the whole thing." - Stephen Pollard

The Friday Thing 2001-2008 - All Rights Reserved