The Manglification of the English Language

A few weeks ago, I heard a member of the Irish Arts Council say that her organisation was “FOI-able,” meaning that it was possible to look up Arts Council documentation under the Freedom of information Act. When I heard it, I shuddered.

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with the phrase. It’s not grammatically incorrect. It saves you having to say a full sentence. The problem is, it rings false. It’s strangulated, robbed of real meaning or context.  It interrupts the flow of the language. It’s an example of how people shoehorn the English language in an attempt to sound smart and current. In other words, they put the language through a mangle.

Plastic letters - words that ring false.

Plastic letters – words that ring false.



Here are three more examples of words that mangle the English language in different ways.

1. Stickability

A comedian was heckled for using this word during a routine. Someone shouted up, ‘There’s already a word for that, it’s persistence.’ A word like “stickability” is a classic attempt to reinvent the wheel. In fact, it’s an over simplification. Words like persistence, perseverance and tenacity have a rich context behind them, of striving and overcoming.

2. “Doing” a country

When people recount their adventures in long haul travel, they like to make themselves sound like Genghis Khan. They talk about “doing Thailand” “doing the temples” and even “doing Europe.” Aside from the delusion this gives that they’ve conquered pastures new, it sounds as if they’re ticking off a list. Words like “visit” and “see” show that you’ve taken in and appreciated the places where you’ve been to.

3. Impact (as a verb)

People being interviewed on a radio love to convert nouns into verbs. I imagine this gives them the sensation that they’re current or happening. Instead, they sound a little false. “Impact” is one of the most common examples of this, as in “This impacts hugely on the community.” Ironically, this robs the word of its emotional weight. Changing it back into a noun conveys the idea of a deep effect more accurately.

Have you got any example of what I like to call “mangletronic” words, words that sound all right on the surface, but ring false?


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