”Words, don’t come easy, to me…”

Chris Elliott on the ‘Guardian’s’ lexicon:

In The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy wrote: “That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.” That is a view shared by many Guardian readers.

Looking at the comments some days, it’s hard to see how the love for the ‘Guardian’ could go any lower!

But what, specifically, vexes the CiF commentariat?

The budget threw up a different problem with the use of words: “In your article [George Osborne introduces new ‘living wage’ but cuts working-age benefits, theguardian.com, 8 July] you use three ways to describe the government’s new ‘living wage’: ‘living wage’, in the headline; “living wage”; and living wage.”

It wasn’t the use of inverted commas that was the problem – a journalistic convention to indicate that the word or phrase within may not be literally true – but the phrase itself.


As the reader went on to say: “As the director of the Living Wage Foundation makes clear, with the changes to tax credits and other measures, this is effectively a higher national minimum wage, rather than what is normally known as a living wage. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised at George Osborne’s slightly Orwellian behaviour trying to change the meaning of this expression, but I hope that the Guardian style guide will suggest an appropriate style – maybe ‘living wage’ with inverted commas.”

Good grief! No reputable paper would consider such abuse of the English langu…


David Marsh, the editor of the style guide responded: “We have been considering this. There are, at least for the moment, two living wages – the long-established living wage as defined by the Living Wage Foundation, and Osborne’s ‘national living wage’, which will replace the minimum wage. The important thing is to differentiate between the two, which we will do.”


8 comments for “”Words, don’t come easy, to me…”

  1. john in cheshire
    July 31, 2015 at 11:07 am

    The Conservative Party is doomed; it’s playing the game by the communist rules and they’ll never win because communist rules are forever changing and the only time you’ll know is when you discover that you’re still being vilified. In my view the only way to neutralise communists is to wage war against them and avoid pandering to them.

    • Lord T
      August 1, 2015 at 5:52 pm


      The conservative party has been gone for a long time now. Nowadays it is difficult to see any differences between Labour and the conservatives.

      On the plus side with Labour lurching to the far left it will give the impression we have a Conservative party although it is a pitiful shadow of its former self.

      • August 9, 2015 at 7:54 am

        We used to have three main parties. Now we have one, but the rosettes come in three colours.

  2. Furor Teutonicus
    August 1, 2015 at 7:37 am

    Hi Julia. Here is that test post you asked for. Hope it works.

    • August 1, 2015 at 7:45 am

      Hi, Julia. Here is that test-post for which you asked. Hope: it works.


      • August 1, 2015 at 8:43 am


      • August 1, 2015 at 11:19 am

        Went straight through!

  3. Errol
    August 1, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Changing the meaning of words! Pah! The Left have form for controlling language. I don’t remember them complaining when Brown ‘invested’ our money in debt instead of spent it.

    Throughout history the Left have used language to control the system. This is no different. Methinks they’re just annoyed that 1984 – their handbook – has been read by someone else.

Comments are closed.