The Pickering Post
Wednesday, 12th December 2018

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The Write Stuff

Larry Pickering

Four-time Walkley Award winning political commentator and Churchill Fellow, has returned to the fray over concern that the integrity of news dissemination is continually being threatened by a partisan media.


Most people cannot spell… they think they can but they cannot. So a whole irrecoverable generation is basically unable to pass on a valuable treasure-house of true word meanings… thanks to that delinquent Whitlam who was besotted with phonetics.

To be able to express yourself at capacity you must know the apt word.

You must know how to spell that word in order to determine the derivation or the true meaning, or all is lost forever… in one generation.

A simple example is the misused word, “decimated”.

It doesn’t mean “wiped out”, it means to reduce by only one tenth.

“Decimation” was the cruel practice used by Roman generals. When a battle was lost they would kill one tenth of their own soldiers. By doing so it ensured the 90% remaining would in future fight to the death without question.

“De’tente”, that beautiful French word for a diminution in military tension, was the order given to archers to release the tension on the bow string with the arrow still in place.

Much like cocking and uncocking a loaded gun. Whitlam would have us spell that word …“daytont”, with no allusion to derivation.

Every newscaster and journalist (without spellcheck) says, “comaraderie”. The word is “camaraderie”. It is a French word and should be known by those who teach.

“Iridescent” has only one “r” because it refers to the eye’s iris, yet everyone spells it with two “rs”.

“Irre” prefix has a negative connotation…no-one cares.

Try asking any person who claims they can spell, or even an English teacher, to spell just ten words.



Restaurateur (Fr. no “n”)





Jodhpurs (Jodhpur, India)


Acquisition, and, if you think any of those are unfair throw in ecstasy, inoculation, liquefy, fuchsia and fulfil.

All have distinctive derivatives that necessitate and explain the correct spelling yet the very best speller will barely get two of the ten. 

The art of true explanation can stop a war. A flawed explanation can start one…and don’t expect an interpreter to get it right. They never do. 

Phonetic spelling encouraged during the brief Whitlam era lost a generation of children without spelling integrity. Those children are now illiterate teachers perpetuating the same illiteracy. I hate what he did to us. 

Grammar has disintegrated. It is loudly abused by newsreaders and commentators. Should it be:

“My mother took he and I to the pictures”? or,

“My mother took him and me to the pictures”?

The answer is simple: 

“My mother took him to the pictures” and,

“My mother took me to the pictures.” 

Therefore, “My mother took him and me to the pictures” is correct.

“None of the 50 people are injured”? or,

“None of the 50 people is injured”?

“None” is a contraction of “no one”, therefore the subject “None” is singular. A singular subject requires a singular verb “is”.

“No one is injured” or “None is injured” is correct!

The “50 people” is only the subordinate subject.

Whitlam’s Schools Commission, a sop to the rabid lesbian-run teachers’ unions, ensured basic RRR education was lost forever. Can there be a greater example of his vandalism?

My daughter Melanie arrived home from school when she was 8 with a semester summation from her teacher suggesting, mainly, that Melanie should try to be more assertive, gregarious and outspoken. 

I corrected nine spelling errors in the summation, in red biro, wrote 1/10 on it, and sent it back.

Words are pictures. That’s why we need to write a word in an attempt to spell it.

Let’s say you had two different paintings on two different walls of your office and the cleaners inadvertently switched them overnight.

If, when you walk in the next morning, something feels immediately out of place, you can spell.

If you don’t notice anything, you can’t spell. 



I believe Whitlam, when asked by a journalist just a few years ago, why he still maintained an office with three staff he is reputed to have said "I'm going to suck up as much money from the Australian taxpayer as I can." He's gone now, but he isn't missed.

My son who is now 30 wrote a story about Motorcycles for school. The teacher marked him wrong on nearly every motorcycle make he wrote because she did not understand the name of the various makers , so she marked him down. I sent a terse letter to her telling her what an imbecile she was never heard from her again. Probably a Newspaper Editor now?

I grew up in Hungary to age 17 but have been living in Australia for the past 59 years. I still speak, write and read fluent Hungarian.

Hungarian is a totally phonetic language, what you say is what you write. The Hungarian version of the Latin alphabet is a little longer than the English variety, because there is a symbol for each and every sound of the spoken language. Spelling as a literary subject is unknown for Hungarian school children. They can either write or they can not. By the way, the language is also gender neutral. The grammar, on the other hand is extremely complex but perfectly logical.

That said, there is no excuse for poor spelling in English, particularly for the “educated”.

A Literacy Unit at a NSW Tafe provided a supply list for 'stationary'. The blind leading the blind.
When my daughter was in primary school, she used the word 'tor' in a poem and was marked wrong by the teacher, as the teacher said it was not a word. My daughter could read before she started school and had an excellent vocabulary and is still an avid reader.
Sadly, not enough parents encourage reading, or read to their children.


I am no sure if you will get this but I will not respond to marigold.

And whilst we are on the subject, please lament the passing of the adverb. Even the bloody ABC presenters have resorted to replacing adverbs with adjectives. Not - "He did really well," but "He done real good"
And then there is the death of the ordinal. No longer do we have first second or third, but February 1, 2 or 3. Not long now until we have hours, minutes and twos.

You have all gotten, to getting off of and sodder a wire.

Fair dinkum has a point. I corrected my granddaughter's homework - she had written 'should of' instead of 'should have'. The teacher crossed out my correction and gave a tick to 'should of'. How will children ever learn when the teacher doesn't know what she is doing?

Agreed! My pet hate/loathing is when people say `should of' instead of should have or should've. It just screams `ignoramus'. You might expect better from parliamentarians and lawyers, but you would be sadly mistaken. They are ill-educated as anyone else out there. I can only imagine, their university degrees were bought, not earned.

That's easy for you to say, say, say!

Welcome to America people.

Well said. A canny observation.

Larry in 1976 I was living & working in San Francisco. The US Institute of company directors put out a survey asking members to list in order of priority the ten most important qualities a person needs to be a company director. It was not a pre-determined list. You made up your own. Just under 70% said "Command of the English language" was number one. Interestingly an intense knowledge of the industry in which you are engaged ranked only fourth. I love your observations on Whitlam. This is not the only legacy he left us that we still suffer from.

Larry this is one of your most potent articles. Many years ago, in the late 1970's I was lecturing to budding chartered accountants. Their written assignments were in many many cases just dreadful in presentation and spelling. I marked these down severely and in response to the howls that they got the answers right I replied that as you people are being groomed to serve the public as professionals if you cannot communicate your knowledge then your knowledge is of no value. Much grumbling but no sensible response to that. Its even worse today as you point out.

I find people's inability to use grammar correctly both heartrending and gut wrenching. It has a terrible effect on my affect.

Words are an endless pleasure to use and read. Language the means of connecting them. What a shame this priceless gift has been abused and mangled. I remember learning Latin roots at school to give a lifelong understanding of the origin of words. Great article.

Answering homework, my daughter put "fleet" in a sentence - "Nathan is fleet of foot".
Teacher wrote "Does not make sense".
Another teacher wrote in her report card "... can write well in different genre's".
If I'd left her English education to her teachers, she'd be as bad as her teachers.

Blame Macquarie Dictionary for this one: Proof-reading a junior engineer's letter, I challenged his opening, "Thankyou for ...", only to be told that, "It's in the dictionary!" Bugger me! He pulled out the big fat green book and there it was! OzWizard

My personal gripes are the use of Americanisms. T.V. presenters using such phrases as "gotten", something being such as "the 3 year anniversary" rather than the 3rd anniversary. Also the over emphasis of "so". As in "I'm sooooo going to pass that on". At 71 I'm entitled to be grumpy! I hate the loss of standards.