The War On Words – Feb. 2019


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
• Pass/fail: The Philadelphia Inquirer correctly used quashed in this subhead on a story about the college football playoffs: “Commissioners and college presidents quashed expansion talk.” But fell victim to the common and mistaken squashed in the jump head: “Playoff expansion talk squashed.”

• Carly Mallenbaum, in USA TODAY, left one of her sentences dangling: In a story about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, she wrote: “After several arrests and a failed attempt to become an NFL player, we all know what happened: Johnson became one of the biggest movie stars . . .” It isn’t we who were arrested and tried to make it in the NFL, it was The Rock.

• Later in the same story, Johnson is quoted, “[My daughter Simone] goes to the gym with myself and Dany,” thus committing the phony sophistication mistake that pervades society. What, pray tell, is wrong with a simple me?

USA TODAY strikes again, via Bryan Alexander, referring to Angela Lansbury entering the set of Mary Poppins Returns: “. . . in walks the women who sang the song.” Once more, inexplicably, the female plural is used instead of the correct, singular woman.

• Todd Blackledge, ESPN color commentator, discussing Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant during the playoff game against Notre Dame: “The combination of he and Tee Higgins . . .” Alas, apparently Penn State did not teach the quarterback of its 1982 National Champions about objects of the preposition. It’s him, Todd!

• Dan Patrick, on his eponymous radio show, mentioned “a verbal love letter.” He meant oral, or spoken, love letter. Verbal refers to anything involving words. Thus, all love letters are verbal. A common mistake.

• Gayle King on CBS This Morning, referring to a joyous crowd: “They were jubulant.” Jubilant, pronounced pretty much as it’s spelled (ju-ba-lnt) is sometimes mispronounced this way, but should never be butchered by a network news person.

• A reader found this In the Wilmington News Journal, in a report about a possible shooting: “A reunification staging area was set up in the Costco parking lot at 900 Center Blvd. on the parameter of the mall for anyone searching for family members.” A parameter is a limit that affects how something can be done, and perimeter (which was probably meant here but does not appear to precisely describe the situation) is the outline of a physical area.

• And finally, our interest was piqued by a contribution from Luann Haney, co-winner of our recent grammar contest, who submitted this from the Williamsport (Pennsylvania) Sun-Gazette: “The Lycoming County Commissioners offered the Sun-Gazette a sneak peak into the county’s preliminary 2019 budget.” Should be peek, of course. Peak means highest point or top, as in “mountain peak.”

Department of Redundancies Dept.
A producer on the Mike Missanelli Show on 97.5 The Fanatic, dealing with a production glitch: “I’m going to attempt to try to fix that . . .”

How Long, Oh Lord, How long?
(In which we address the misuse of that most-abused punctuation mark, the apostrophe)
From a post on Town Square Delaware: “The brother’s Purzycki have been having an impact in Delaware since their football days at the University of Delaware.”

Drop the t
We recently heard two people pronounce the t in often (it’s silent, folks): Nick Foles (who can be forgiven; he’s not a media type and he was very busy recently saving the Eagles’ season), and Lara Spencer, of Good Morning America fame. No excuse there. And BTW: If the title of that show means it is saying good morning to America, there should be a comma after “Morning.” 

. . . and the e
Ever notice? The Planet Fitness tag line (at right) contains a misspelling (or, at best, an alternate spelling) of judgment: “The Judgement Free Zone.” And Judgment Free should be hyphenated.

Word of the Month

Pronounced ab-ni-GAY-shuhn, it’s a noun meaning self-denial.

Follow me on Twitter: @thewaronwords

Need a speaker for your organization? Contact me for a fun presentation on grammar:

So, what do you think? Please comment below.