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

And the Winners are . . .

Our contest in the July issue, in which readers were asked to edit an error-filled paragraph, proved to be a toughie. In fact, no one achieved a perfect score. But we did have two entrants—Luann Haney and Larry Kerchner—who overlooked just one mistake. Not surprisingly, both of them write for a living. Luann is a copywriter and owner of Haney & Associates, and Larry is a composer/lyricist. Kudos and a $25 gift certificate to both!

Our thanks to all 23 readers who took on this challenge. Here is the corrected paragraph:

It was 12 noon when we started out and 12 midnight [12 is redundant; noon and midnight pinpoint the time] when we hold [holed] up in the green, verdant [verdant means green and is a more elegant word, so delete green] woods behind the staple [stable]. We himmed [hemmed] and hawed about what to do next and had some ice [iced] tea while considering our quandry [quandary]. Sam, who had a hair [hare] lip and was a cardshark, [either card shark (two words, meaning a skillful player) or cardsharp (a cheat) is acceptable] and Bill, who had never graduated [from] high school, walked in [into] my tent and then hoovered [hovered] over me, siting [citing] the many incidences [incidents] where I had lead [led] us astray. I told them there [their] point was mute [moot]. We needed to hone [home] in on a plan. I finally reverted back [revert means to return to, making back redundant] to another time when we had a tough road [row] to hoe between [among] the three of us. I explained the whole entire  [whole and entire are synonymous; choose one] situation to them, but they seemed disinterested [uninterested; disinterested means neutral, impartial], so I shoed [shooed] them away and mentally concentrated [concentrating requires mental effort] on thinking about our future to come [redundant]. I already had a pit in my stomach [one doesn’t get a pit in the stomach; the expression is “a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach”] because we had come within a hare’s breath [hair’s breadth] of getting caught. We had already killed the golden goose, [the goose that lays golden eggs] and the calvary [cavalry] was coming after us, but that was a whole nother [other; nother is not a word] subject. Finally, I went outside to bring [take: you bring things to the place you are, and you take things to the place you are going] my plan to them.

Media Watch

Let’s start with a couple from the Wilmington News Journal.

• Reader Maria Hess notes that a space was missing from the word “into” in this item: “A former Delaware lawmaker turned himself into Lewes police after contacting the woman he allegedly assaulted…” Says Maria: “He’s a magician, I guess.”

• And in a story about Scott Pruitt, deposed head of the EPA, reader Walt DelGiorno spotted this quote: “Loyalty is not to a person. Loyalty is to principals.”  Says Walt: “As a former teacher, I have been loyal to some principals but, more often, I have been loyal to my principles.”

• Then there was this internet headline: “President Trump Reverts Back To Campaign Rally Trump.” Revert: to return to (a previous state, practice, topic, etc. See contest corrections, left column).

• And Phillies play-by-play guy Tom McCarthy continues his language-challenged ways. Advising John Kruk on the answer to a trivia question, he uttered this: “You should have went with the Hall of Famer.” A frequent error with the unlettered (a group Tommy Mac should not be a part of), it’s have gone with.

Department of Redundancies Dept.

From my hometown newspaper, The Lock Haven (Pa.) Express: “He was a former past president of the Mill Hall Kiwanis.” As opposed to a current past president?

Note to contributors: When submitting an item to War, please try to include the name of the newspaper, magazine, TV channel or network, or online source, along with the author, if possible.

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