Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Here here, snow, and a wasted opportunity

with 6 comments

unxftitledThe other day, while *cough* accidentally reading an article in the Guardian about the X Factor (a TV competition for wannabee singers that I never watch except for sometimes every week), I noticed that the comments thread had segued into a discussion about spelling and punctuation.

It began because someone had written ‘here here’ in response to a previous comment. Someone else said this should be either ‘here hear’ or  ‘hear here’, while a third said it should be ‘hear, hear’, contracted from ‘hear him, hear him’.KyoZG

Well, how interesting. (Although not to another commenter who pointed out that people who spend their time correcting others’ spelling are a bit sad.)

I (sadly) turned to the trusty Oxford Dictionaries site which informed me that the correct spelling and punctuation is: ‘hear! hear!’. It doesn’t bother with the derivation, though Wikipedia confirms that it’s a shortened form of ‘hear him’ (its punctuation is a bit dodgy).

Note that there isn’t universal agreement about this. Cambridge Dictionaries online says it should be punctuated ‘hear, hear!’. Which does, I admit, look a little less intrusive on the page.

Feefle and flindrikin

snowuntitledWhich brings me rather neatly (ahem) onto snow. Just a quick note of interest: did you know that our Scottish friends in the north of the UK have 421 words for snow?

One of my favourites is ‘skelf’ meaning a large snowflake. Every language should have a word for a large snowflake. 🙂

Wasted opportunity

133924Finally, while in a newsagent’s the other day, I caught sight of the cover of Acoustic Guitar magazine. The cover picture was of blues musician Robert Johnson who is supposed to have made a pact with the devil. The words next to the pic read:

Paying the devil his blues

‘Paying the devil his blues’ is based on the common proverb ‘give the devil his due’ (scroll down).  So, of course, the play on words in this MUSICAL example should have been:

Playing the devil his blues

Subeditors, eh? *sigh* Fings ain’t what they used to be.

That’s quite enough from me for now. I probably need to lie down.

Butler: ‘Hear, hear!’ (He prefers the single exclamation mark.)

6 Responses

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  1. Loved this — and even learned a couple of things! Can’t wait to impress my friends with the word ‘skelf’ as soon as the first (large) snowflake falls 🙂

    Leigh O'Brien

    09/10/2015 at 12:37 am

  2. Well done WordWatch: many interesting fings here. I especially like the piece on “hear! hear!”. In my days as a civil servant (your butler and I have a lot in common) I went often to the House of Commons. They say “hear! hear!” a great deal there of course — as an alternative to clapping which is disparaged — but it sounds more like a motorcycle in a tunnel than recognisable words. Perhaps the rumbling sound is unique to Parliament and might therefore be rendered “here here”. Just a thought. I’ll go back to X-Factor now.

    John Looker

    09/10/2015 at 8:27 am

    • Hi, John – I like your motorcycle analogy; it seems very apt. The Commons chamber always looks much smaller in real life than it does on TV.

      Now, if there’s one person I can never imagine watching the X Factor… 🙂 (Something else you and the butler have in common. 🙂 )


      09/10/2015 at 8:38 am

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