“If the meaning you wish to convey is ‘tiny’, the word you should use is ‘tiny’”

John Rentoul

Peter Kellner 253x300 “If the meaning you wish to convey is ‘tiny’, the word you should use is ‘tiny’”Continuing, by popular demand, my series of celebrity endorsements of The Banned List book.

Peter Kellner, the President of YouGov (right), who taught me 95 per cent of everything I know about political journalism (with a margin of error of three percentage points) when he was political editor of the New Statesman, writes to check whether the following phrases are on the List:

“Top down” and “one size fits all” (except when referring to clothing sold by Millets) – and an especially painful punishment when both are used together to criticise any party’s policy.

He should be pleased to know that they are both there. So is “bottom up”.

Oh, and “Yeah, right” to mean “I don’t believe it but can’t be bothered to check the facts” (see almost any Ron Liddle column).

He then has a more controversial proposal:

“Minuscule” means lower-case type, not tiny. It is the opposite of majuscule, which means capital letters. As Harry Evans once put it in a memo to Sunday Times staff, “If the meaning you wish to convey is ‘tiny’, the word you should use is ‘tiny’.”

I am not sure about the definitions, which stray into pedantry rather than the banning of irritating jargon and cliché. (To call Kellner, or anyone else, pedantic is, however, I should remind you, the highest compliment.) And a more prosaic objection to minuscule is that it is often misspelt. So minuscule is best avoided, but it is not going on the Banned List. The use of majuscule, however, is henceforth compulsory.

Make your own nominations in the comments or on Twitter #bannedlist.

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  • Firozali A.Mulla

    No John nothing is tiny these days all want Big Burgurs, Big Coke Big Pepsi and read on the thefts  We have all types of thugs who want to create a name. But that is life i guess. Everyone has to make a living.” This is an everyday phrase, an excuse for whatever action is required of an employee working for someone else. Some situations require workers to check their morality at the door and to leave compassion in the parking lot. In this manner, a person who can be a victim of some unfair business practices turns around, in his or her day job, to become a creator of new victims. Where does one’s personal morality end and one’s responsibility to a company (or law firm) start? This is a fundamental problem in our nation. People are required, by their employer, to make victims of others as part of their daily work. Just doin’ the job, of course.  Foreclosure is an ugly, nasty process, one that should never make anyone proud of their work. The contempt of the employees of the Baum law firm probably reflects a desire to distance themselves from what they are doing and to make it appear that it is always the mortgage holder who is at fault. If a lot of money is being made in this process, and the employee is getting a good slice of it, then there is a powerful incentive to bend one’s opinions and morality for the firm. It happens every day to people in their jobs who become morally blind. The fact is, millions of people were led into mortgages like sheep, with the brokers and banks telling them what to do and how to do it to get approved. Ordinary people, unfortunately, often assume that they are not an active part of the process. Then, they are led like sheep through foreclosure, often with unfair and unethical practices in the process.  The way foreclosures are handled is a national scandal well beyond the issue of faked signatures and missing documents. This scandal is at its worst in states with “non-judicial” foreclosures, mainly in the south, that allow someone’s house to be taken without court action. In other states, the courts, stuffed with cases, are run by judges for the lawyers and the wheel spins on.On Friday, the law firm of Steven J. Baum threw a Halloween party. The firm, which is located near Buffalo, is what is commonly referred to as a “foreclosure mill” firm, meaning it represents banks and mortgage servicers as they attempt to foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes. Steven J. Baum is, in fact, the largest such firm in New York; it represents virtually all the giant mortgage lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Go to Columnist Page »The party is the firm’s big annual bash. Employees wear Halloween costumes to the office, where they party until around noon, and then return to work, still in costume. I can’t tell you how people dressed for this year’s party, but I can tell you about last year’s. That’s because a former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent me snapshots of last year’s party. In an e-mail, she said that she wanted me to see them because they showed an appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against. When we spoke later, she added that the snapshots are an accurate representation of the firm’s mind-set. “There is this really cavalier attitude,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that people are going to lose their homes.” Nor does the firm try to help people get mortgage modifications; the pressure, always, is to foreclose. I told her I wanted to post the photos on The Times’s Web site so that readers could see them. She agreed, but asked to remain anonymous because she said she fears retaliation. This is what I call creating and destroying why I have no clue. I thank you Firozali A.Mulla DBA

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