We all suspected that Jacob Rees-Mogg had something of the frustrated schoolmaster in him. The sort of form tutor all the boys called a ‘legend’ at school, who was eccentric to absurdity, more brutal to his charges with lofty language than any bully’s taunts ever could be, and who would let them get away with murder so long as they had a clever explanation for it.
It explains why, as Leader of the House of Commons, Rees-Mogg has sent down from on high a style guide to those who now find themselves working for him. It has invited scorn and mirth in equal measure, with Jess Philips MP looking into whether she can have the suffix Esq. attached to her name, and leading the Guardian (of course) to use it as evidence of some wicked elitism.
But setting out stall for use of language in his own office frankly doesn’t go far enough. The whole nation could do with a bit of a Rees-Mogg brush up on its style. Here’s where to start:
Don’t begin a sentence with ‘so’
Sentences should not begin with ‘so’. Quite how this has happened is unclear, but whether on the radio, television, or even just around the kitchen table, increasingly, there exists an underclass of irritating little so-and-so’s who always warn you of their intention to launch into a monologue by deploying the word as a cue. It doesn’t belong there. So stop doing it.
Get rid of ‘like’
Like is often deployed where it has no right to be, though rather than at the start of a sentence, it is used as a crutch – a curious pause midway through speaking, to allow a person to catch their breath, or more often collect their thoughts. ‘Um’, which isn’t a word, is used in a similar fashion, and I don’t like it. My old headmaster once told a room of assembled boys he judged people who readily deployed the word ‘like’ mid sentence. I’m sure Rees Mogg would hold similarly forthright views on this pesky little preposition.
A pause is a far more effective method of, well, giving yourself a pause. It forces the listener to shift, slightly, in the awkward silence, wondering wether to intrude, before you begin again. It conveys gravitas. Above all, a pause in a sentence is a hugely effective method of placing emphasis on what you are saying, unlike ‘like’ which diminishes rather than enhances your argument.
Avoid corporate speak
To be a man of action is the thing our man in number ten seems to value highly, from the cabinet to the bedroom. To action something, though, is not a desirable thing. Office slang has permeated the thin membrane of decent society, and now the palaces of the mighty are awash with talk of ‘synergy’, ‘mediation’ and ‘future-proofing’. We go about our days actioning various tasks until we are positively exhausted with the talk of it. The phrase is one of the worst examples of corporate speak — to this end, the government’s plan for a no-deal Brexit is all the more timely, as it will no doubt wipe out the finances of a great number of the chief culprits.
The rise of the emoticon is a troubling sign for all of humanity. What does an image of an aubergine mean to you? Without context, without introduction, just a aubergine appearing in your text messages, you would be hard pressed to say. Is it a statement? Is the sender calling you an aubergine? Are they requesting babaganoush for supper? Or, as the youth of today seem to believe, it is a request for carnal activity? If the latter, it is no wonder so many of them are currently caught in the grip of a sex recession – who in their right mind would try to initiate sexual congress through a vegetable?
Needless to say, emojis should not be used, nor those who use them taken seriously. The Neanderthal and Homo Erectus moved away from cave paintings toward written language because humanity was evolving. The emoji is little more than a regression back to such troglodytic times.
The following words are now banned by the government, in no particular order of vulgarity: Toilet, bombshell, kids, chirpse, methinks, holibobs, review, headroom, insta, Pimms, basic, backstop, Liverpool, fascist, sauce, ice, nanny, dope, drip, Darius, crevice, Adonis, blockbuster, order, Europe, Jeremy, illegitimate, bus, borderline, verifiable, deal, no deal, Norway, blundering, bumbling, blustering, womanising, Borisconi and unicorn. Please find suitable alternatives.
The word ‘Brexiteer’, meanwhile, is also banned, and where possible, should be replaced by the term ‘Optimist’.