The War On Words

Bob Yearick

, War On Words

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

Media Watch

In the course of one hour on a recent Sunday morning, I encountered these gaffes:

• Tracy Smith, on CBS Sunday Morning, reporting on author Herman Wouk: “After graduating Columbia University, he found work writing for comedian Fred Allen’s radio show.” Never mind the wordy “found work writing for,” the real culprit here is the missing from after “graduating.” When did this start, this trend of people graduating schools instead of schools graduating people?

• Same show, from Correspondent Lee Cowan: “The goats scale up a tree.” Scale: to climb up a surface (Department of Redundancies Dept.).

• Danny Pommells, on Comcast SportsNet: “The play of he and Reddick . . .” A typical sportscaster, eschewing the objective pronoun him, required by the preposition of, because he sounds more sophisticated.

• “I can tell you that Italy and China had twice as many voting representatives than the Philadelphia market” — Bob Ford, Philadelphia Inquirer. Surprising, since Ford usually writes pristine prose, but the comparative here calls for “as the Philadelphia market.”

Some additional media miscues:

• Reader Larry Kerchner spotted an online medical service article that reported “a debilitating condition, untreated Tinnitus wrecks havoc.”  The term is wreaks havoc. Says Larry: “Hey, I never liked havoc anyway.”

• In Delaware Business Times, a Sam Waltz sentence lost its way: “Clearly, exercising your First Amendment rights to commercial free speech now have been impeded and impaired by Dover Lawmakers.” Exercising, not rights, is the subject, so the verb is singular: has been.

• In a Wilmington News Journal story by Scott Goss, spotted by reader Jane Buck: “Aslam and Kim also withheld details about . . . a business partnership, cash payments and a gifted BMW sedan, according to the indictment.” Jane wonders if the BMW could dance, and I wonder why writers employ such strained, bastardized words. Wouldn’t “a free BMW sedan” work?

• Bob Cooney in The Philadelphia Inquirer: “Jackson’s shooting form may be something the Sixers would see as needing a major overhaul as it has myriad of mechanical problems.” Either insert a in front of myriad or make it “myriad mechanical problems.” Either way is fine, since myriad is considered both a noun and an adjective, but I prefer the shorter “myriad problems.”

• ESPN football commentator Tedy Bruschi: “It was much more easier for me.”  The deadly double comparative. Perhaps Tedy had too many brewskis before the broadcast.

• During a Phillies TV broadcast, Tom McCarthy said the runner needed to be “weary and leery of the catcher.”  That’s wary, Tom. And aren’t wary and leery virtually the same thing?

• Let’s end with this, from TNJ, via a reader: “When plump, chicken catchers, like those employed by Unicon, round up the birds….” Ah, those chicken catchers: plump but nimble.

Department of Redundancies Dept.

• From the Newark Post: “Nelson said the victim, a 22-year-old man, had engaged in a mutual fight with Evans.”

• Martin Frank, in TNJ: “In addition, Wentz’s new receivers, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, as well as running back LeGarrette Blount, will also get their fair share of attention . . .”

Missed Opportunity

Reader Susan Kaye writes: “Your comment on the News Journal sports page and ‘There ARE a litany of teams’ does not address the fact that litany is a singular noun. Although I agree that ‘litany’ doesn’t really fit in the context, if the sportswriter does choose to use it, it really should be ‘there IS a litany of teams.’”

Couldn’t Resist

I came across this somewhere on the Internet: What do you say when comforting a grammar Nazi? Their, there, they’re.

Seen a good (bad) one lately?

Send your candidates to ryearick@comcast.net

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