Saturday, 11 June 2005


We English have always excelled at the intemperate expression of our prejudice, anger or contempt, and simple amateurs like Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells can often out-perform top non-English practitioners such as Ian Paisley.

We have many words to describe the kind of thing we do so well: diatribe (“pompous and abusive writing”), tirade (“long vehement speech of censure”), Philippic (“bitter invective”) and so on. Then there is rant, which appears often on the internet and usually refers to a violent attack on some triviality. It is rarely used elsewhere as a noun but sometimes crops up as a verb, frequently paired with rave, as in the song They’re Digging Up Grandpa’s Grave to Build a Sewer: “…Won’t them ‘igh class people rant and rave…

When the word features in an author's description of his weblog it is a fair indication – as is the appearance of other four-letter words – that what follows is probably not worth reading. Nevertheless, many writers of blogs like to boast that they are offering their personal rants, as if these are to be savoured. They might be less inclined to do this if they were aware of Samuel Johnson’s definition of the word: High sounding language unsupported by dignity of thought.

I will stop there, before this becomes a rant.

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