Thursday, 25 September 2014

What's 'marmalade', Grandma?

What's 'marmalade', Grandma?

About a month ago, I heard a piece on the radio about words that were falling out of fashion – one of those stories that gets recycled each year when there's nothing much to write about – and was alarmed to hear that one of them was 'marmalade'.

Apparently, to use 'marvellous', 'fortnight' or 'marmalade' in everyday speech pegs you as an old-fashioned sort of cove best relegated to the pages of a P G Wodehouse novel. Or to a script by Julian Fellowes (though 'fortnight' might be a bit modern for him).

I am aghast. In a similar piece in the Guardian in August 2011 (See? It's always in August, nothing else happening out there), the supposedly endangered words included things such as 'aerodrome', 'charabanc' and 'wittol' (a man who tolerates his wife's adultery, apparently a word that is no longer needed). These I understand. We can live without the likes of 'cyclogiro' and 'drysalter' most of the time.

But 'marmalade'? What is going on?

Still, this perennial subject did give some rather bored journalists something amusing to do while everyone else was on their summer holidays. I rather liked this piece in the Guardian, particularly the bit about 'marvellous' at the end. It is essential to the English language because it is such a joy when used sarcastically, and you can't do the same with 'awesome'. Try it. It's just not the same.

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