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Cha-a-a-a-a-a-a-arge*

26/07/2013

In the quotidian corruption of English English, one example is the progressive abuse of the word ‘charge’ in the reporting of criminal matters. Over here, people have customarily been charged with a criminal offence. Increasingly, however, the papers are reporting people as being charged for an offence.

On page 9 of today’s Times, for example, you can read that “a French photographer suspected of taking topless pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge has been charged for allegedly breaching her right to privacy”.

I wonder just how much she thought it was appropriate to charge him for getting an extended eye- and lens-ful of her (frankly unexceptional) breasts. The Middletons are, after all, portrayed as being relentlessly commercial. Did she demand cash up-front, or did she hand the paparazzo a pro-forma invoice on the customary 30-day terms?

To me, being charged for something means being presented with a bill requiring payment for a service or purchase supplied. Thus ‘charged for’ reads as if someone is required to pay for permission to do something criminal. This usage becomes especially perverse and revolting, of course, when they are ‘charged for’ rape or other forms of assault. It sounds analogous to the freedoms provided by, say, a fishing or hunting licence.

* Anyway, it’s Friday so we all need a laugh. The word ‘charge’ sometimes brings to mind John Alexander as bonkers Cousin Teddy in the exquisite  black comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace. Cousin Teddy is firmly convinced that he is President Teddy Roosevelt. Whenever he goes upstairs, he imagines himself at The Battle of San Juan Hill, draws his imaginary cutlass, and

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