We need the word police – now more than ever

important call

This article first appeared in the Sunday Herald Sun

ANY time I’m unlucky enough to be caught outside after 10pm and I  wander past a nightclub queue, I think to myself, “Why aren’t there fashion police?”

It’s always a case of too much skin, not enough gym. Also, the sale of leather pants, denim shorts and crop tops to anyone who isn’t a supermodel or rock star needs to come with a fine.

There are also several times every day I find myself wishing for word police. Our language is misused and abused every day, rendering much of it so meaningless that it’s hard to know which word to use anymore.

There are bigger problems, but why so few of us care about them may have more to do with the misuse of words than anyone realises. These days when some of us feel unwell, it’s a medical emergency. Then when the ailment turns out to be minor, as it mostly is, well, that’s a minor emergency.

But a minor emergency? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Which means the person declaring their toothache, stubbed toe or dizzy spell an emergency is also a moron.

This overuse has the knock-on effect of degrading the urgency of actual emergencies. Globally, you might find a climate change emergency, a Kardashian dental emergency and, on a flight to Thailand, an emergency landing caused by six drunk Australians.

queso emergency

In a better world, the word police would step in and keep the climate change thing the same, but downgrade the Kardashians to a “dental bore” and the drunks to causing an “expected landing”.

Disaster is another misused word. My news feed is full of movies, sporting results and political campaigns that are labelled disasters, meaning that Batman tediously cavorting with Superman, a missed kick near goal or politicians accidentally speaking their minds are apparently as important as a flood that kills hundreds of humans.

With the help of the word police, an awful movie would be exactly that and a politician’s speech would be disappointing, perhaps even poor.

fast service

The word police should also crack down on recorded messages.

If my call truly was valuable, I’d be talking to a person and not a machine. If anyone was really sorry about the train delay, it wouldn’t keep happening.

And if that really was the world’s best ice cream, Mr Whippy, you wouldn’t be selling it from a van in an empty park and I wouldn’t be the only customer.

This article first appeared in the Sunday Herald Sun

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.

His second comedy memoir ‘Going Out of My Mined’ is available now.

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