May I have a word about… ‘straitjacket’ used as a verb

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Matt Dunham/PA</span>
Photograph: Matt Dunham/PA

Nouns used as verb, part 9,097. I have long since realised that I’m losing the battle with this particular horror and usually now pass on by. But last week I was reading a report about Prince Harry’s continuing battle with the Mail on Sunday and was halted in my tracks. “Andrew Caldecott KC, representing Associated Newspapers, told the High Court on Friday that in fact the publisher’s case was a ‘strong’ one and called the stance of Harry’s legal team on multiple aspects ‘wholly unreasonable’... Caldecott also claimed Harry’s legal team had ‘fundamentally distort[ed]’ the meaning given by the judge last year in its arguments, having the ‘effect of straitjacketing the newspaper’s right to comment’.”

Man holding a bundle of papers
‘Andrew Caldecott should wash his mouth out.’ Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Straitjacketing! Ye gods. I have no view on either side in this case but I do think that Caldecott should wash his mouth out for visiting that monstrosity on us.

I am glad it’s not just me who has a thing about silos, on which I wrote last week. I was delighted to receive the following from reader Ian Patmore: “I was completing an online questionnaire to improve my colleague’s management potential and the question wording came up as ‘breakdown silos’, as in breakdown barriers. Why use silos when everyone understands the phrase breakdown barriers? I wasn’t aware grain or missile silos needed breaking down.” I couldn’t agree more.

Fizz Fieldgrass has also been exercised by the strange use of language. He sent me the following: “ON THE BUSES. A new initiative to up skill, recruit and retain bus professionals and improve the bus sector will be announced by Roads Minister Richard Holden.”

“Up skill” seems like a classic case of management speak and therefore should not be repeated, please.

Oh dear, I spoke too soon. Microsoft’s blog announcing its new AI assistant, Copilot, contains the bold claim that it will “uplevel skills”. Kindly lead me to the nearest darkened room and don’t disturb me for quite some time.


• Jonathan Bouquet is an Observer columnist