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Without further adieu, join me for a sneak peak into the mind of a dill


Annabel Crabb

It's hard to remain unphased when the English language is being mashed in front of our eyes.

Attention: This is a public service announcement. There are some matters urgently in need of discussion. Nothing about the below is easy, and I don't like having to say it. I'm not blaming anyone in particular, either - so don't take it personally. But it has to be said, so we might as well get it all out of the way at once. After that we shall never speak of it again.

First: the phrase ''Sneak Peek''. It's an aberration of an expression, really, but it's used about every eight nanoseconds by somebody trying to get you to consume some online budget beat-up or preparatory hyperventilation about the Oscars or thoroughly PR-vetted visit to the sun-drenched pad of some Victoria's Secret model.

It's part of the language now, I guess, so if you must use it, then go ahead. But for the sake of everything holy, could you please just not spell it ''Sneak Peak''?

What would it take just to stop and think about it for five seconds? I mean, what would a Sneak Peak look like anyway? Have you ever considered that? A shifty pinnacle of some sort? A graph with mixed messages?

This problem is so cancerously endemic that some excellent anonymous person on Twitter has established an account called @StealthMountain. All it does is send out an automated ''ahem'' message to every single person who butchers the phrase.

I'm looking at it now, and in the last hour it's sent out 120 warnings. That's one every 30 seconds. This problem is bigger than I thought.

English language usage is full of perfectly serviceable if dull expressions that have been mauled, through inattention, into senseless hulks of their ordinary selves.

Particularly in America, where the fundamentally nonsensical ''I could care less'' is a daily staple. (For goodness' sake, if you COULD care less, that means you actually do care, at least a bit, so stop using that phrase to indicate your utter lack of concern. The correct expression is ''Couldn't care less'', for crying in a bucket. It's not that hard.)

It's puzzling. It's not as though nonsense is any easier than sense. And sometimes the nonsensicality of the muddled-up version is just so achingly apparent (Looking at you, ''raised to the ground''.)

It's the darnedest thing. But it's in human nature to make things harder for ourselves; why else would the World Wildlife Fund persist with abbreviating its name to WWF even though the abbreviation has seven syllables, when the whole damn name only has four?

Nevertheless, let's just stamp out a few more right now.

It's not ''Here, here''. You're getting confused with ''There, there.'' The expression is ''Hear, hear!'' - an abbreviation from ''Hear him! Hear him!'' - and dates back to the 17th-century House of Commons, where local peculiarities apart from beheading people included the prohibition of applause in the chamber, thus obliging the invention of a verbal expression of approval.

There are many places in this fine world of ours, both geographical and virtual. But there is not a Whole Nother Level. It simply does not exist, I'm afraid.

And I don't care if you are French. Or in France. Or drinking wine with a French word on the label. Whatever the circumstances of your work dinner, you are not going to get on to the announcement of the lucky door prize ''without further adieu''. It's ''ado'', just so we're clear.

Isn't this going well?

Let's move on to ''unfazed'' and ''unphased''. If you are the former, you are in the happy position of not being at all disconcerted by some unexpected event or development.

If you are the latter, as I saw one Twitter user point out last week, it means that you have escaped attack by Star Trek weaponry. These are two quite different things.

The really pernicious thing about many of these misuses is that they are spell-check stealth bombers. The problem is not that the constituent elements are incorrectly spelled, they're just mashed together in a manner destined to make one look a fool in one's office email chain.

Surely there must be a workable business model for a ''Dill-check'' device which scans one's dashed-off electronic correspondence for any trace of ''To all intensive purposes'' and ''revert back to'' and ''slithered almonds''.

Dill-check would have emotional intelligence, and thus not offend anyone as it gently replaced ''infer'' with ''imply'', and inserted an apostrophe, an ''r'' and an ''e'' after the first word in ''your kidding''.

A friend of mine once got in a terrible bind about his buddy who regularly - when excited - described things as ''penultimate'', as in ''Oh my God. Did you see that tackle? That was just the penultimate, man.''

No one told him, because it was too awful. The system failed that poor man.

You've got to call it when you see it, or it'll just keep happening. Irregardless.


Annabel Crabb is the host of ABC TV's Kitchen Cabinet. Twitter: @annabelcrabb

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