Thursday, August 01, 2013

Words we love to hate

Sometimes you just have to make a stand. Speak out against injustice, prejudice and repression. Strike a blow for freedom,  never mind the consequences – all that heroic stuff.

Actor Nigel Havers is just such a stander-upper. A couple of weeks ago, the smooth-talking star of – ooh, you name it, he’s been in it – was interviewed in The Radio Times and described his own personal blow for liberty.

Nigel Havers. Definitely not a luvvie.
“I was never pissed off about being called posh,” he told the august journal, “but the one word I can’t stand is ‘luvvie’.

“I was listening to PM on Radio 4, and they said they had a luvvie on the programme. I phoned the BBC and demanded: ‘Stop using that word. It’s such a put-down’.

“They promised they’d never do it again, and they haven’t.”

From such small victories are greater freedoms won. For how could anyone whose trade, profession or calling has ever been demeaned by a throw-away epithet feel anything but sympathy for Mr Havers?

Journalists don’t take kindly to being called “hacks”. Lawyers aren’t too keen on “vultures”. And a lot of scientists really can’t stand being called “boffins”. Although as any hack will tell you, “boffin” is very often the only word for the job.

Be that as it may, as any vulture would confirm, Mr Havers’ case sets a precedent for calling the BBC and asking them to stop using a word you don’t like.

That word is “iconic”.

A word that BBC presenters, reporters, continuity announcers and DJs splatter around with such wild abandon that you wonder if they’re on some sort of bet to see how many times they can squeeze it into their programmes.
Iconicles. Don't watch, it only encourages them.

A word that they use to describe anything from a mountain to an opera to a plate of fish and chips.

A word that has become utterly valueless, even if it ever had any meaning beyond “relating to an icon”. An icon is a representative symbol. Fish and chips is a cheap supper. Well, cheap-ish.

Further research on the topic led this reporter to discover that there is now a BBC kids’ show called Iconicles. At which point he had to go for a little lie-down.

Won’t somebody make them stop?

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