The War on Words – Aug. 2016

Bob Yearick

, War On Words

A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse

Department of Redundancies Dept.

Two from the sports world:
• Geno Auriemma, Connecticut women’s basketball coach, commenting on the passing of legendary coach Pat Summitt: “She was a precursor of things to come.” Precursor: “Something that comes before something else.”
• Neal Rudel, of the Altoona (Pa.) Mirror: “James Franklin was upbeat in seeing Moorhead’s first public debut.” Can’t wait for his second debut.
And one from the news desk:
• Jim Donovan, co-anchor on CBS channel 3, talking about the body count in a recent mass shooting: “There’s little doubt it is going to escalate upwards.” Y’think, Jim? It won’t escalate downwards?

Media Watch

• Lara Spencer, co-host on Good Morning America, committed the dreaded double is: “The cool thing is is that . . .”
The News Journal, quoting John Flaherty: “Delaware is no different then most states when it comes to binding of delegates on the first ballot.” John should have said “from,” but I’m assuming he said “than,” which TNJ mistranslated to the much worse then.
• Deion Sanders on Twitter: “Pat Summitt & Buddy Ryan, architects of their prospective sports.” That would be respective sports. Deion attended Florida State to play football, not attend English class.
•Zach Berman in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Pederson said Carson Wentz would continue to get an equal amount of reps as Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. . . Pederson has made sure there was an even amount of work with the first-, second- and third-team offense.” Zach was wrong the first time (it’s number of reps) and right the second.
• Abbey Mastracco, also in the Inky: “The sound that comes from Mickey Moniak’s bat emanates through the ballpark.” The sound emanates from his bat and reverberates through the ballpark.
• A reader sends this from a Washington Post advice column: “For years she’s been recounting people with the story of how…” Our reader notes that, “since only census-takers re-count people, the writer should have said either ‘regaling people with’ or ‘recounting the story.’”
• After losing an on-air debate, Mike Missanelli of 97.5 FM said, “I went out on my sword.” You fall on your sword; you go out on your shield. The first is essentially sacrificing yourself for a greater cause, the second is fighting to the bitter end.

More on Commas

Last month we discussed misplaced commas in relation to quotation marks (they go inside the quotes) and missing commas when addressing someone (E.g., “thanks, Mary,” not “thanks Mary”). Now let’s tackle the unnecessary comma in a person’s title, in such sentences as “The meeting was called to order by Chairman of the Board, Don Smith.” Many people insist on inserting a comma before the title. Note to them: don’t.

Literally of the Month

Karen Heller in the Washington Post: “This is a golden age of comedy, literally.” She went on to list several comedians who are making big bucks. Maybe if they were paid in gold. But even then. . .

How Long, Oh Lord, How Long?

(In which we chronicle the abuse of that most misused punctuation mark, the apostrophe.)IMG_0456-cmyk
On a recent foray into upstate Pennsylvania I came across the two signs pictured at right. The wooden one is typical of erroneous signs that appear outside many homes. This is a simple plural—Eichenlaubs. No apostrophe. As for the other sign, I wonder: Why doesn’t “LPS” rate an apostrophe? If you’re going to be wrong, at least be consistently wrong. And what’s with the capital S?

Seen any obvious errors on signs, menus, brochures, etc.? Grab a picture and send it to War.

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Seen a good (bad) one lately?
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Word of the Month: louche
Pronounced loosh, it’s an adjective meaning disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way.

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