The War on Words

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

Phillies Faux Pas

Long-time readers Walt DelGiorno and Debbie Layton are calling out Phillies TV play-by-play guy Tom McCarthy, and incidentally, his boothmate, Ben Davis.

Walt points out that McCarthy noticed that a runner on first base and the first baseman were having a conversation and he asked Davis if he wanted to “go down there and tell them ‘no fratenizing.’”  Davis replied that yes, he would tell them “no fratenizing.” As Walt points out, they both dropped the r in the word fraternizing.

And Debbie caught Tommy Mac observing that a manager “. . . must have saw something.” Like many media talkers (see Rick Williams item below), he has trouble with the present and past perfect of several verbs. “. . . must have seen something” is correct.

And then I heard this uttered by sometime radio color man Kevin Stocker: “The amount of runs scored by the Phillies . . .” Use “number” when referring to plurals.

Media Watch

• A reader contributes two: Anchor Rick Williams, on 6ABC, commented about a suspicious package thusly: “If a bomb had went off. . .” That should be gone off, of course. And NBC News Anchor Lester Holt signs off with “We appreciate you spending time with us.” That should be “your spending time with us”; it’s the act he appreciates, not you.

• Reader Janet Strobert discerned a dangling modifier in this TV testimonial ad for Shannondell, the retirement home near Valley Forge: “As an actor and director, this theater captivated me when I first moved here.” The theater is not an actor and director. The sentence should properly read: As an actor and director, I was captivated by . . .”

• And this was the subject line on an email from Delaware Public Media: “You’re Reliable Source for Delaware Debates.” Your is the possessive needed here, not the contraction for you are.

How Long, Oh Lord, How Long?

(In which we cite misuse of that most abused punctuation mark, the apostrophe)

An invitation to a charity event sponsored by a Baltimore-area school began “Golf with the Raven’s.” I responded: “With the Raven’s what?”

Department of Redundancies Dept.

Willie Geist, on MSNBC, spoke of “a small handful of supporters.” Handful: “a small quantity or number.”

And see the photo below right.

Hard to Believe, Harry

(The phrase used by late Phillies broadcaster Richie Ashburn when he alerted his late boothmate, Harry Kalas, to an egregious event on the field)

We had to put this one here because it’s from the normally well-edited People Magazine, making it especially glaring: “The Mask of Zorro star, 57, proved that him and Griffith, 60, are the friendliest of exes . . .” The writer, Nigel Smith, should know that it’s “he and Griffith.” Thanks to reader Rose Zannetti for this.

And Finally . . .

I have to take exception to one of the “36 commonly misused phrases” recently posted by Granite Media Group, a California company. Among the usual “I could care less/I couldn’t care less,” “try and/try to,” “360-degree turnaround/180-degree turnaround” was this:

“Hone in vs. Home in—Like many of these examples, both of these are correct in their own way. [Ed. Note: No, they are not.] When you hone in on something, you’re focusing in and, theoretically, becoming distinctly better at it—like a skill or trade.”

This is so wrong. For starters, “hone in” is not a legitimate phrase. Hone simply means “to sharpen” and should never be followed by in—or any other preposition. Too often, it is substituted for home in, which means to target, or move toward a goal. This post by a respected journalism site just encourages such semi-literacy.

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Word of the Month:


Pronounced AD-uh-nyz, it’s a verb meaning to make more attractive; to spruce up.

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