Of roosting chickens, circling back and WISHBs

"Nothing will come of nothing." #1ismorethan0 #keeptruffling #obese #obesity #ohbabi #running #fitspo #fitness #fitspiration
“Nothing will come of nothing.” #1ismorethan0 #keeptruffling #obese #obesity #ohbabi #running #fitspo #fitness #fitspiration

The chickens came home to roost last Tuesday.

I spent the whole of that day privately making jibes at a PR company for using the term “circling back”.

They did so while corresponding with my colleagues, in instances like these:

  • “Thank you for circling back to me.” (I think they meant to say “replying”.)
  • Circling back to our previous conversation…” (“Returning”, perhaps?)

While they weren’t exactly wrong, I was amused because their usage of the phrase was unnecessarily cumbersome.

So I mercilessly mocked them by “circling back” to the same phrase at every opportunity I got, during conversations with my office mates.

I guess it was only fitting to receive my comeuppance by inadvertently making a typo on the same day.

Shortly after knocking off, I accidentally interacted with an emotionally toxic person outside of work.

By the time I reached home, I was so drained from dealing with this person that I almost skipped my weekly run.

But I decided I wouldn’t allow myself to be affected by said individual.

So I thought I’d force myself to carry on with the workout through a bit of self-motivation, based on something I’d learnt from this post on Reddit.

Before heading off for the run, I created the image you see at the top of this post.

It’s supposed to say “1 > 0”, or one is more than zero i.e. don’t have a zero day by putting one foot forward, and then another, and so on.

Unfortunately, I only realised later that I used “<“, the lesser than sign, instead of “>”, the more than sign.

Adding insult to injury was the situational irony of my caption: “Nothing will come of nothing”.

It’s a line from the opening scene of King Lear by William Shakespeare, which I meant to use in a self-motivational manner.

However, the original line was meant to demonstrate the protagonist’s hubris…

I guess the moral of the story is: don’t “circle back” when you can “revert”?

In any case, a WISHB was in order – and duly published:

Not say I want to say: “elderly”

Welcome to the third edition of “Not Say I Want To Say”!

I owe all of you a post on this since I was knocked out on Fri after the ‘twin happiness’ of enduring a somewhat painful surgery and discovering that I’d been selected for the Gangwon-Style Immersion Programme.

(BTW please humour me regarding what I “owe”; it’s a psychological thing to motivate me to post at least one article a day, so please harangue me if I don’t update this site daily!)

Today’s “Not Say I Want To Say” word is “elderly”.

Elderly women

Example from a news report:

Two China nationals from a syndicate were arrested by the police on Sunday afternoon for allegedly attempting to cheat these elderly, mostly in their 60s.


From “Two men arrested in fake gold ingot scam targeted at elderly”, my emphasis.

How has “elderly” been misused here?
The speaker has used the word “elderly” as though it were a noun. However, the word is only used as an adjective or as a collective noun.

In other words, “elderly” can only be used to modify another noun e.g. the elderly person (where “person” is a noun) or to refer to a group of people in society e.g. the needs of the elderly.

How do we use “elderly” correctly?
Ask yourself: am I referring to one senior citizen or a group of senior citizens?


When you need to refer to one senior citizen, use “elderly” as an adjective – not a noun:

When you need to refer to a group of senior citizens:


Efficiency of non-standard use:
Actually, quite efficient – consider how “family” is used as a noun (e.g. “his family“), a collective noun (e.g. “the role of the family in society today”) and an adjective (e.g. “the family car“).

Potential for adoption:

SOME possibility for adoption. But seriously, you’ll sound like a boor if other English speakers don’t use “elderly” in the same way.

Have a good Monday and don’t let the Monday blues get you down (save that for me and my linguistic fascism)!

Not say I want to say: “value-added”

Welcome to the second edition of “Not Say I Want To Say”!

Today’s “Not Say I Want To Say” word is “value-added”.

Example from a news report:

…what is important is for us to go towards a fair and reasonable payment regardless of their nationality and depend more on their skills, productivity and their value-add to the industry, and the business.


From “NTUC chief addresses migrant worker issues”, my emphasis.

How has “value-added” been misused here?
The speaker’s intent is to describe “the amount by which the value of [each migrant worker] is increased at each stage…exclusive of [other] cost[s]” (OED) such as their wages or the externalities which Singapore society has to bear when bringing migrant workers into the country.

However, “value-added” is a compound word more commonly used as an adjective e.g. “value-added services”.

The speaker seems to have inferred that “value-added” can be shortened to “value-add”, which is confusing for the reader: is the speaker using the compound word as a verb or a noun?

How do we use “value-added” correctly?
Ask yourself: is a compound word necessary for the purpose I intend?


When the focus is on the value of the goods or services:

When you want to describe the goods or services:

Efficiency of non-standard use: No change – “value-add” and “add value” have the same number of syllables and characters.

Potential for adoption: DO NOT adopt – there is no added value to the word “value-add”.

Have a good weekend and see you back here on Monday!