Lag escapes nick in motor, sadly dies in eaterie

It’s not like me to get annoyed by little things. Okay, it’s very like me. And today’s little thing is the language used by Scottish news websites.

Here are some examples:

Masked thugs firebomb prison guards’ motors [The Sun]

Lags at four nicks are getting state-of-the-art football pitches [The Sun]

Motors? Lags? Nicks? Who’s writing this stuff? Guy Ritchie?

When they’re not pretending to be in English gangster movies, they’re using slang to downplay the seriousness of violent acts.

Air passenger headbutts police officer in flight rammy [Daily Record]

A man was taken to hospital for severe facial injuries after a rammy... [Daily Record]

Many of these are headlines, but offenders lurk in the text too. Trinity Mirror’s Glasgow Live frequently uses “eaterie” to describe restaurants, “lost their battle” to describe cancer patients dying and “sadly died” in subheads about death.

I’m annoyed by these partly because they’re annoying, but also because it’s proof that a whole kind of journalism job has gone. In the days when sub-editors ruled the newsrooms, you wouldn’t get away with “eaterie” – it’s an affectation – or “lost their battle” – it implies that people who die of cancer didn’t fight hard enough – or “sadly died”, because it doesn’t mean what you think it means: it’s the opposite of “died with a smile on their face”. It doesn’t mean “they died and that is sad”.

I know, I know, it’s not important in the great scheme of things. But precision in language is yet another thing we’ve lost in the name of cost-cutting, something of value sacrificed by people whose spreadsheets show the cost of everything but never their value.