I find the imprecise use of language really irritating, don't you? It interferes with communication and leads to changes which become permanent. People may say, 'Well, it's a good thing that language is constantly evolving'. Perhaps they mean as a fever evolves into death or as a population explosion evolves into Armageddon.
Let me explain why the sloppy use of language can cause serious problems.
Many years ago, before decimal coinage and before The Beatles, a little boy and his father were building a shed in their back garden. The man placed a plank of wood on the ground and said to his son, 'You can do this one, son. I'll hold the nail, you take the hammer and knock the nail in when I give you the signal'.
The little boy was bursting with pride at this introduction into a grown man's world. He took the hammer in one hand and slapped it several times into the palm of his other. His father knelt down, took a nail from the tin and bent low over the plank, holding the nail in position with both hands. He looked up at his son and said, 'Now son, you see this nail?' The little boy nodded to confirm that he did indeed see the nail which his father was holding against the plank of wood. 'Right, when I waggle my head, you hit it. Do you understand?'
'How do you mean, dad?'
'It's quite simple, son. When I waggle my head, you hit it.'
'Are you sure, dad?'
'Yes, hit it as hard as you can.' So the father gave the signal by waggling his head vigorously from side to side. The little boy raised the hammer high into the air and brought it down on to his father's head.
I leave that with you.
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