Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Keith Hann Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Keith Hann Columnist

Article excerpt

YOU know you are getting old when you become conscious of feeling hopelessly out of your depth in the tide of fresh language that keeps rolling in, to the confusion of those of us still speaking like they did in the olden days.

I continue to raise eyebrows by saying "very well, thank you" in reply to polite enquiries about how I am, rather than the now obligatory "I'm good".

Somehow I consistently manage to buy my meat, cheese and produce in pounds and ounces, though I find that it does help to know that a pound equals 454 grams, just in case the young shop worker does not.

The relatively youthful and altogether more modern Mrs Hann is baffled by my insistence on always quoting temperatures in Fahrenheit, even in the depths of winter when numbers beginning with a minus sound so much more exciting.

However, even she was taken aback the other day when she ordered half a dozen items in a shop and the assistant looked at her blankly before venturing: "So, would you like three or four?" One of the most jarring things to me at present is being told that a pub or train is "rammed". I would naturally say "packed", or just "very full". To me, rams are for servicing ewes, battering down doors or moving water hydraulically.

Surprisingly, the Oxford Dictionary assures me that this fashionable use of "rammed" is a British colloquialism rather than a trans-Atlantic import, as most such assaults on my sense of the right and proper seem to be. However, it appears to offer no clues as to how it originated.

Years ago there was a signpost in the middle of the roundabout at Hipsburn, near Alnmouth, pointing up the hill to "Rly station". My girlfriend at the time asked how we pronounced this strange place name, observing that it looked more Welsh than Northumbrian.

"Railway" I replied, slowly and coldly, making a mental note that I had been absolutely correct (logically, if not politically) when I recruited her as my PA on the strength of her looks rather than her brainpower.

Now I find myself waging an increasingly lonely battle against the universal advance of the American "train station", even in my own household. …

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