totally rad

Maybe it’s just me, but this headline, from the BBC website a few days ago, bothers me:

Plane bomb suspect "radicalised after leaving UK"

I think there are two problems. First the fact that “radicalised” could be either active or passive – “he radicalised”, or “he was radicalised”. And then the verb itself, “to radicalise”. It may be the correct usage, but it sounds strange. And it immediately makes me think of “free radicals”.

Not actually knowing what free radicals are – they always make me think of the FREE GEORGE DAVIS graffiti of my youth – I started rummaging about on Google to see what came up. And it turns out that they are associated with excited states, chain reactions, and charges. Which all seems quite relevant to both plane bombers and armed robbers, though many would agree it would be better if these were “locked-up radicals”.

To be fair, I suppose my dislike of the verb is really just an indication that the longer I live away from the UK, the more words and expressions that are unfamiliar to me will come into common usage. Which adds support to my personal belief that bilingualism is pretty much impossible as you can’t be in two places at once.

On a tenuously related note, years ago, I was helping a Japanese girl in California with her English. She brought me her homework from the Community College one day, with a selection of colloquial phrases that she had to explain. One was something to the effect of “John’s new car is totally red.” At the time, I hadn’t a clue that she’d copied it down wrongly, and I couldn’t tell her what was intended – I didn’t speak the slang used by young Americans.

Now, though, I guess that “John’s a red” isn’t that far off in meaning from “John’s a rad”.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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