Columnist: Can I have a word? What really gets Phil Weir's sheep...
Maybe it's my near 60 years in newspapers (I had them delivered to my pram as a baby), but if there's one thing that gets my sheep, sorry, goat, it's people who repeatedly deploy the wrong word for something, to the point the erroneous usage gets adopted by the wider, vocabulary-mangling public.
And the misuse which grabs my bovid by the bell-dangling halter the most is ‘floor’ being constantly uttered by certain diddies, dolts and dumb-bells when they in fact mean ‘ground’.
I could have been alone in this, but as I grew up I developed the rock solid belief that floors were the horizontal areas you walked while on the inside buildings – the bits directly below and generally in parallel with ceilings.
I also, long ago, signed up, in indelible ink, to the idea that, once on the outside of buildings, in the great outdoors, where the only thing above your napper, barring a hat and a halo, is the sky, all flat surfaces or inclines where one can potentially plant both feet without falling off, should be referred to as the ground.
But what do I hear everywhere I steer a lug these days?
The ground referred to as the floor!
This etymological abomination first came to my notice on television, further blighting the already garbled utterances of football pundits, as in, for instance: “Oh, no! Sykes has just lost it and dropkicked Donaldinodicci, and the Ruritanian is writhing around on the floor like he’s been shot by Allan Quatermain with an elephant gun.”
But my fear now is, where will this wrong ’un pop up next?
History books, for instance?
And will there be creepage, with other floor-related terms being sucked into the verbal vortex?
Here. I’m told, are some entries in The Floorist History of Human Firsts, which is, as I write, being poorly proofread at the publishers.
July 21, 1969 – Neil Armstrong became the first human being to stand on the floor of the Moon … “One small step on to the lunar carpet for man; one giant leap across the planetoid’s parquet for mankind!”
October 12, 1492 – Columbus, in his carpet slippers, stepped ashore on to the floor of the Americas.
May 29, 1953 – Hillary and Tenzing conquer Everest, the highest bit of flooring beneath the ceiling that lies under the roof of the world.
And, Axminster forbid, the floorists ever visit Floors Castle, ancestral gaff of the Dukes of Roxburghe.
There they’ll be –probably a coachload of them; those for whom the word ‘ground’ no longer exists – all wandering about the verdant spread together and yapping away to each other and waxing lyrical about the splendour of the well-manicured floors around them.
May the deity give me strength!
Not, mind you, that Floors Castle is really a castle by any stretch of the imagination.
It couldn’t repel an assault by custard pie.
It wasn’t built until 1720.
It’s more of a mansion, really ... burble, burble, blah-blah, drone ...