Case 17: ``Often dubbed''? Are you sure?

24th July 2002

Filed by: Officer Taylor

The Offence

The Guardian's review of a recent revival of Rodgers & Hart's classic musical On your Toes describes the show as follows:

Originally choreographed by George Balanchine, this show, which has not had a major revival in this country for almost 20 years, is often dubbed the ballet lover's musical, on account of its final jazz ballet sequence Slaughter on 10th Avenue.

The Verdict

Nothing is ``often dubbed'' anything. ``dubbed'' carries the sense of initiation, of giving a new name to something. AHD4 gives the meaning as ``to honor with a new title or description''. Here it's being used lazily and sloppily to mean nothing more exotic than ``called''. The Guardian should simply have written:

On Your Toes is often called the ballet lover's musical.

What could be easier?

We wouldn't mind this so much were it not for the fact that such sloppiness is increasingly prevalent, in the Guardian and elsewhere. Words which have precise meanings are used to mean something more general. A common example: football reports will claim that a player was ``adjudged to be offside''. All that's meant is that the referee judged the player to be offside - but that extra little syllable is not merely pretentious, it's also inaccurate: ``adjudged'' is a more precise, legal term, meaning ``to determine or decide by judicial procedure''. Certainly not an appropriate word to use when describing a referee's snap decision.

We could go on. We probably will in other cases. The problem here is not just that we of the SAGP are irritable and curmudgeonly, and like to find fault wherever possible - although that is certainly true. The wider problem is that our language gradually loses its force and precision as the meanings of specific words are watered down by this kind of misuse.

The Sentence

Oh, whatever. We just don't care. The whole thing is too depressing to think about.

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