The War On Words – October 2020

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

Media Watch

• A dangler from USA TODAY: “Wanting to prevent the spread of the virus and schools closing, USA TODAY reported that several college administrators have resorted to stricter rules that sometimes call for the suspension of students.” Yo, USA TODAY, simply reporting on college administrators’ efforts will not help stop the spread of the virus.

• Gabe Lacques, in USA TODAY, speaking of Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros: “. . . he was the most ardent defender of he and his Astros teammates in the wake of their sign-stealing scandal.” Following the preposition of, himself would’ve been the appropriate pronoun here.

• Willie Geist on Sunday Today with Willie Geist: “Chadwick Boseman played everyone from Jackie Robinson to Black Panther.” Exactly who is “everyone from Jackie Robinson to Black Panther”? Media types use this lazy construction all the time. Why not “played such disparate roles as Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Black Panther”?

• Daughter Danielle caught The Wilmington News Journal using a redundancy and the wrong verb in consecutive sentences: “The only noticeable visual addition to the area so far is a large American flag hanging from an office building next to the Chase Center and Frawley Stadium. Another flag laid (lay) on a mat next to the Chase Center’s entrance.”

TNJ also published this sentence: “President Barack Obama reigned in the program.” That’s reined in.

How Long, Oh Lord, How Long?

The title of Donald Trump Jr.’s book has a typo (no surprise): Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrat’s Defense of the Indefensible. Unless Donnie is referring to a single Democrat, that apostrophe should come at the end of Democrats.

Department of ‘HUH’?

A reader reports that she heard this in a Morgan & Morgan commercial: “We do one thing and one thing only: workers compensation and personal injury.” Um, fairly sure that’s two things.

Another reader says he recently received an email from a person who, after presenting a political argument, then concluded that it was a mute point anyway. The word, which we have pointed out several times, is moot.

Department of Redundancies Dept., COVID Category

Former Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, about the possibility of playing a winter schedule followed by a regular fall schedule: “The body, in my very strong opinion, is not made to play two seasons within a calendar year. That’s 2,000 repetitive reps.” (“Reps” is coachspeak for repetitions.) Yeah, those repetitions are definitely repetitive. And technically, repetitious would be more accurate.

Reader Joe Martz (hereafter to be known as “Upstate Pa. Joe”) asks, “If someone gives 1,000 percent, which I’ve heard many times, are they 900 percent redundant?” Answer: Yes.

Notes on October

A couple of seasonal notes: First, reader Nancy Blance says that both she and her late mother, who was an English teacher, have anguished over the mispronunciation of Halloween. Most people, says Nancy (and we agree), pronounce it “Hollo-ween.” Remember, it’s “all Hallows’ Eve, so it’s pronounced Hallo-ween.

Second, let’s remember that football (finally) has kicked off with a kickoff. The former-—two words—is the verb; the latter—one word-—is the noun.

We Beg to Differ

We continue our campaign to excise the word different when it is meaningless, in such constructions as this recent item about Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ father: “Mahomes Sr. pitched for six different MLB teams.” In cases like this, different becomes a kind of verbal hiccup.

Which/That

O&A Contributing Writer Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald supplies us with a News Journal headline that demonstrates how using which in place of that can cause confusion. The head, “Markell pens protest song after white supremacist rally in 2017 in Virginia, which led to woman’s death,” could be construed to mean that former Gov. Markell’s song led to the woman’s death. Remove the comma after Virginia and make it “that led to the woman’s death,” and the meaning is clear.

Word of the Month

hyponym

Pronounced HY-puh-nim, it’s a noun meaning a more specific term in a general class. For example, “purple” is a hyponym of “color.”

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