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.”