A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse
Literally of the Month
“Trump is literally shoring up his foreign affairs staff.”
– Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski, who loves that word.
• A reader caught Monica Malpass of WPVI Channel 6 in a little subject/verb disagreement: “No one, including the driver, were hurt.”
• Troy Aikman, Fox’s lead color man for NFL games, called a player “laxadaisical,” the default mispronunciation for most TV jocks. (It’s lackadaisical. But you knew that, right?) That mistake is second to peripheal vision (as opposed to the correct peripheral) in their misguided vocabulary.
• WDEL committed the still/yet faux pas, reporting that “the Red Clay District has still yet to make a decision.” Still is superfluous in that sentence.
• From The News Journal: “Bouchard sided with Elting’s claims that fighting between she and Shawe prevented the company from conducting important business.” Prepositions, such as between, require objective pronouns (her).
• Five—count ‘em, five—readers sent me this from TNJ: “Inspectors from the division of Public Health issued a cease and desist immediately closing the restaurant, which has been a stable in Newark since 1971.” The word needed here, of course, is staple.
• From a TNJ editorial (courtesy of a reader): “That jives with the national trend.” Jibe, or, more properly, gibe, is the word meant here. Jive is swing music, the dancing performed to it, or glib, deceptive talk.
• Martin Rogers in USA Today reported that, before the Super Bowl, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick “was offering amusing anecdotes . . . and regaling memories of his job in a pub kitchen as a teen.” You can’t regale memories. You can regale (amuse, entertain) an audience by relating or recounting memories to them.
• Bill Hader to Melissa McCarthy during a Saturday Night Live skit: “Have you ever sang in front of people before?” Many folks have trouble with the past participle of verbs. Sung is correct here.
Department of Redundancies Dept.
• Tim Furlong of NBC 10, adding emphasis to his Facebook request: “Hit me back right away asap OK?”
• From The News Journal: “Malhotra could be seen visibly pressing the buzzer.” Courtesy of reader Sarah Hutchinson.
• From The Philadelphia Inquirer, in a story on the Steelers-Chiefs playoff game: “Weather also could be a factor, too.”
Some media types use the term “flush out” when they mean “flesh out,” which refers to expanding or enlarging something, such as an argument or a resume. “Flush out” would mean almost the opposite.
One More Time . . .
In the 10-year history of this column, we have pointed out several times that begs the question does not mean to raise or bring up the question – the sense in which it is almost always used. Some readers have noted that our explanation of what the phrase does mean has been somewhat lacking. So, we’re going to take another (last?) stab at an explanation:
Begs the question refers to a kind of circular argument, or tautology, in which a statement is assumed to be correct without evidence other than the statement itself. E.g., The reason there’s such a big demand for tickets is because everyone wants them. This sentence has begged the question because it assumes the initial point. Used in this sense, the word beg means “to avoid,” not “ask” or “lead to.”
So, think of the phrase as avoids the point—and avoid using it altogether.
Word of the Month:
Pronounced BO-vuh-riz-em, it’s a noun meaning a romanticized, unrealistic view of oneself.
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