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on 9 May 2012
I have just seen the political journalist Andrew Neil use the 'word' 'totes' (for 'totally') on Twitter. This would be excruciating enough from a teenager but from a grown man - not to mention a former editor of the Sunday Times - it is quite distressing. This is something up with which we should not put. Fortunately someone has his 'eye on the ball', so to speak. Or rather, so not to speak.

The Independent journalist John Rentoul seeks to do for clichés, jargon, waffle and other crimes against the English language, what Lynn Truss sought to do to bad punctuation in Eats, Shoots and Leaves. To give writers and speakers a 'wake-up call' and force them to 'smell the coffee' and leave their 'comfort zone' - but not in those words. Not on his watch.

"My experience is that people care about language; pedantry is also popular," he says, in the entertaining fifty-page polemical essay that precedes the list itself. He is not the first person to try to uphold standards in English language usage, of course, and he does acknowledge his eminent predecessors: Henry Fowler (Modern English Usage) and George Orwell (Politics and the English Language) - whom he admires "mainly because his real name was Blair." (Adding a little more evidence to my theory that his Blair veneration is a long-running satire.)

The list itself includes a variety of horrors, few of which I would be sad to see thrown into the 'dustbin of history'. As you might expect from a political journalist, it includes many of those slippery phrases found in the repertoire of politicans, like 'going forward', 'crunch talks', 'moral compass' and 'social mobility'. He also debunks some ill-considered metaphors: "Catalogue of errors. (Does it have glossy photographs?)"

Then there are tautologies such as 'added bonus', 'job of work' and 'any time soon' - which, as he points out, "is not a different way of saying 'soon', just a longer one." Also on the list are many of those phrases that begin to grate the moment they become fashionable, if not sooner. ('Epic fail' is a 'no-brainer', 'end of.') Plus "Full Stops. When. Used. For. Emphasis."

All banned, and rightly so. Although I think some of the more abominable entries ('normalcy' and 'problematise', for example) should not be given the 'oxygen of publicity'. As for 'render inoperative', I really did laugh out loud at that one. I wonder who came up with that, and why they thought it necessary. Rentoul wisely leaves such etymological archaeology to Susie Dent, and simply bins it. *Sorted*.

The problem with a project like this is that it will always be a work in progress. More expressions that have 'jumped the shark' will keep springing to mind. Best not to set the bar too high though, eh? Journalists, politicians and others who 'bandy words' for a living will find this an instructive text. Amusing too.
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on 11 October 2011
Big it up for John Rentoul's most excellent The Banned List. Some might accuse him of picking at the low hanging fruit that represents the result of my ironically titled comprehensive education. I say "Best. Book. Ever." End of.
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on 22 October 2016
You can't go Rong with Rentoul™. Very, very funny. Although it does make you want to double check everything you write in case you've managed to include something on the list. So in that sense it could reduce productivity. But I would recommend it regardless.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 August 2013
The booklet is a useful call to arms in the fight against jargon, clichés and plain bad use of the English language. The previous sentence probably falls foul of the recommendations in several places, already.

The author introduces the subject - i.e. clear, concise writing avoiding tired phrases, buzzwords and other expressions of the day - puts his striving into a historical context (in fact Orwell's Politics and the English Language is quoted quite frequently and many of his examples have made it onto the list), explains the reason for this linguistic diligence or even pedantry and then finally proceeds to the list itself.

The list forms the second half of the book (the split is fairly even) and mostly just involves the word / phrase, which the author considers should be 'banned', with on occasion the context in which it may be acceptable and in rare cases some background.

As noted by another reviewer, if you are looking primarily to understand where the phrases come from, you may be a bit disappointed. On the other hand, if you enjoyed books like Eats, Shoots and Leaves,Politics and the English Language or Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod.: Ein Wegweiser durch den Irrgarten der deutschen Sprache. Die Zwiebelfisch-Kolumnen / Spiegel-Online (for those having the same feeling about the decline of German language use), the book is a useful tool to remind oneself of the mistakes one makes and could correct. The fact that it is occasionally also humorous is an added bonus.

A final note - much of the book's content can be found on the author's blog.
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on 2 October 2012
I was expecting to find this an amusing read in the vein of 'eats shoots and leaves' or the 'entymologican', but it was really a style guide for the independent with a list of cliches. I would have enjoyed about the origin of the cliches, but this info was not included.
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