Zo with the Flo

I had high hopes when I engaged issues recently around a Zoë Williams article in the Guardian interrogating issues around notions of rape in popular culture. And Zoë — what a thinker! — nearly fulfilled those hopes. I nearly had another scintillating sample for my award-winning “Oh My Guardian” series. This is nearly a perfect opening for a sentence of echt Guardianese:

In terms of narrative tropes…

But it should of course have been:

In terms of core narrative tropes…

So near — and yet so far. Still, “In terms of narrative tropes” is pretty darn good, worthy of the Great Gary himself. And it prompted me to interrogate issues around one of the core linguistic enigmas of our day. Here are two graphs from Google nGrams:

In terms of (UK English)

In terms of (US English)


What on earth is going on? Why have ITO usage metrics continued to rise in British English while peaking and falling in American English? This hasn’t happened with other core items of progressive English, like “issues around”:

Issues around (UK English)

Issues around (US English)


And “notions of authenticity”:

Notions of authenticity (UK English)

Notions of authenticity (US English)


And “engagement with” (in its progressive sense):

Engagement with (UK English)

Engagement with (US English)


If those keyly core items of Progressivese are “spiking” so healthily on both sides of the Atlantic, why is the even keylier corer “in terms of” not doing so? At least, I would say ITO is keylier corer, but does the ITO fall in America suggest that it isn’t?

Maybe not. One possibility is that “in terms of” has been depreciated in an influential (and anti-progressive) American manual of style that hasn’t been influential in the UK. However, American speakers have failed to see that the same grounds for rejection apply to “issues around” and so on.

But it’s hard to see why American progressive would take any notice of sensible advice about rejecting ITO. It’s also hard to see why the American drop in “in terms of” shouldn’t have influenced the UK even if this hypothetical style-manual (or arbiter) isn’t influential in the UK.

Something mysterious is going on and more research is plainly needed.


Previously pre-posted:

Septics vs Dirties
Get Your Tox Off
Guardianistas — all posts referencizing this core progressive demographic and their glossocentric performativity

Get Your Tox Off

There’s only one word for it: toxic. The proliferation of this word is an incendiarily irritating abjectional aspect of contemporary culture. My visit to Google Ngram has confirmed my worst suspicions:

Toxic in English

Toxic in English

Toxic in English fiction

Toxic in English fiction

“Feral” isn’t irritating in quite the same way, but has similarly proliferated:

Feral in English

Feral in English

Feral in English fiction

Feral in English fiction

Noxious note: In terms of majorly maximal members of the Maverick Messiah community (such as myself), it goes without saying that when we deploy such items of Guardianese, we are being ironic dot dot dot


Previously pre-posted (please peruse):

Septics vs Dirties
Ex-term-in-ate!
Reds Under the Thread
Titus Graun

Septics vs Dirties

Some interesting patterns at Google’s Ngram Viewer (please follow the links to see the original images with further statistics):

in terms of (American + British English)

in terms of (American + British English)


in terms of (American English)

in terms of (American English)


in terms of (British English)

in terms of (British English)


issues around (American + British English)

issues around (American + British English)


issues around (American English)

issues around (American English)


issues around (British English)

issues around (British English)


Previously pre-posted (please peruse):

Titus Graun
Ex-term-in-ate!
Reds under the Thread