Half a percent and giving 110%


Halving ‘a percent’ is a bit like giving 110%. You can’t do either.

Thank goodness for the BBC, just about the only institution left which perseveres with the expression “half of one percent”, no matter how much clumsier it makes its news bulletins sound. Because of course half a percent makes no sense at all.

If only they’d apply such mathematical rigour to the type of shows on which contestants declare that they are going to “give it 110%”. Probably physically impossible.

The giving of 110% is currently in a state of flux, already having hit 120% and showing signs of routinely being inflated to a million percent by the end of the year.

– Oh I agree


– Like, 1,000,000%


On “National Television”


The single biggest faux pas you can make is to say something awful. On ‘National Television’.

No matter how extensive the indignities suffered by Big Brother contestants, their every indiscretion broadcast to the nation around the clock, the one thing that unites them is that, at some point in the series, one of them will have a dazzling moment of clarity and express a view that they can’t believe they just did that thing they just did. On. National. Television.

The last time I checked, pretty much all television is broadly national, other than for the dreary 30 minute slots the BBC is forced to devote to coverage of pot holes and bus routes, that masquerades as local news under the terms of its charter.

Yet National Television is the official standard for broadcast situations in which you shouldn’t do things.

I’d probably be more embarrassed appearing on a Look North vox pop proffering my ill-informed views about whatever flimsy subject they’ve wheeled out a camera for – usually over-taxed pasties or Should That Car Park Be Demolished? – than I would making an utterly drunken arse-flashing mess of myself on Channel 4. At least one way lies entry-level notoriety.

A more pressing point, in the case of most of the people who put themselves forward for the nation’s major industry of talent show attendance and general twattery, is why they’re on television of any kind.

Given the diversification of TV audiences amongst all those channels that bored people watch on Sky, it’s probably more of a surprise that more people aren’t ashamed of having destroyed themselves “on National Twitter”.


Disbenefits. Not a real word, and not a thing.

As if the world isn’t depressing enough already, along comes Boris Johnson on Newsnight the other day, prattling on about runways at Heathrow and referring to the “disbenefits” of building a new one.

Disbenefits? Hasn’t he heard of drawbacks, disadvantages, or losses?

Sadly, Boris didn’t invent disbenefits, which is a shame because it would be another good reason to dislike the floppy-haired loon. The word has been doing the rounds of the airless, stifling offices of the management consultancies for a number of years, and has now made it as far as being on the telly. Quite why a bunch of fresh-faced, over-keen graduate trainees are allowed to coin new phrases and then persuade the mayor of London to say them out loud on the BBC is anyone’s guess. But it’s evident that we either need common sense to prevail or an equivalent of the Academie Française to police the language before the whole thing gets out of hand.

And yet. And yet.


Guardian journalists, and perhaps all journalists, keep saying “And yet. And yet.” And yet, and yet, that’s not a thing.

No but they do though:
Like here.
Or here.
And here. And here.

Obviously it’s not just them. It’s the Telegraph too. And the Independent. And the BBC.

“And yet. And yet” appears to be spreading like a contagion through the media. I bet Robert Peston says it all the time. Yes, that’ll be it. It’s no quicker than saying “nevertheless” but it’s clearly designed to introduce some rhythm or pace to whatever is being written. Maybe it’s written into these organisations’ style guides. Except that, if everyone writes the same thing all the time, they all end up sounding like the same airheaded idiot who came up with the phrase in the first place.

I imagine you’re going to tell me it was either some Haiku poet, or Sting, who is responsible. Either way, I rest my case.

‘Ahead of’


Saying ‘ahead of’ when you mean ‘before’ isn’t a thing.

I know it’s terrible to bash the BBC given that everybody does it all the time. Too biased. Too populist. Not populist enough. Too many channels. Too many offshoots. Unfairly ‘competing’. Why should I have to pay my licence fee when I only ever watch all those BBC-funded services online? Oh and the licence fee, well yes. I can have a jolly good moan about that whilst thinking nothing of laying out £45 a month for Sky. Presenter salaries. Copycat formats. Things a different set of people did or didn’t do in the seventies. They should have known! Why didn’t the BBC know? They need to be scaled back.

But here goes anyway. The BBC are trying to abolish the word ‘before’ and replace it with ‘ahead of’. They use it all the time. How dare they?

Ahead of the vote in the Lords. Ahead of the conference. Ahead of the budget statement. Ahead of the weather forecast. Ahead of the Wimbledon final. Ahead of the news headlines.

So take that, BBC, and add it to your pile of unfair criticisms. It’s pretty much the only one that isn’t completely unmerited.