Use of Personal Items

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After a brief hiatus, Guest Wednesday is back! Today’s selection comes from a reader in London and is sure to bring a smile, if not an outright chuckle:

A British train in Paddington StationHere’s an idea to plug a gap in the language from those annoying announcements you get on British trains: these are loud, constantly repeated, and mangle the language; if not pre-recorded, they are also beyond the capacity of the train’s staff to deliver comprehensibly. One announcement I particularly dislike is the reminder when I disembark to take with me all my ‘personal items.’

Was I thinking of taking somebody else’s ‘personal items’?

And doesn’t ‘personal items’ sound…. well, you know….personal, and none of the train company’s business? What’s wrong with ‘belongings’?

Yet could ‘personal items’ be put to another use?

There is no one, universally-accepted word to describe the person with whom you live, sleep and love but are not married to. ‘Partner’ is dull, and sounds like lawyers, which is OK if you’re going with a lawyer, I suppose. ‘Significant other’ does not do it for me; I’m too old to talk about ‘squeeze’, and words like ‘mistress’ and ‘paramour’ aren’t good enough for steady gigs. One small, additional reason I enjoy being married to my lady is that I no longer have to mess around in this linguistic bog when introducing or being introduced by her.

There is, however, ‘item’ – Fred and Glenda are ‘an item’, meaning they have just got really friendly, like recently.While not perfect, how about ‘personal item’ instead of ‘partner’ or ‘whatever’?

Chickenmonkeydog would like to thank Ross Davies for his witty contribution to our blog. Ross is a man about town and, dare we say, a partner in The Governance Partnership.

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  1. Very funny.

    However I could not avoid noticing this sentence: “these are loud, constantly repeated, and mangle the language”.

    Ironic really that a sentence, that describes how the railways are mangling the English language, mangles it too by misplacing verbs.

    Either of the following would be correct:

    These are loud, are constantly repeated, and mangle the language.

    These are loud and constantly repeated, and mangle the language.

    Sorry, irresistible really. Proofreading is a reflex action for me.

  2. Hey Shefaly – Well spotted indeed! It’s a good thing this post wasn’t being read out over the train tannoy. Ha-ha!

  3. One more thing that I should have mentioned in my previous comment: the editors of chickenmonkeydog should be taken to task for any typos or clunky phraseology. I think they took today off for some reason. Not sure why … must look into that.

  4. Ha! Ross – you’re exactly right!

    Those announcements always made me vaguely unsure of my relationship to my items and uncomfortable about what the relationship between me and my items (personal or impersonal?) implied about my character more broadly.

    So for example, I would wonder anxiously, is my wallet a ‘personal’ item? And if so, what does that say about me as a person? – Am I too focussed on money? If my mobile phone is a personal item, am I too tied to technology? Should I boldly declare that my only personal item is my wedding ring and leave all other items behind as I exit?
    You get the gist…

    It’s a lot of pressure, when really all I wanted to do was get off the train!

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