The War On Words – March 2021

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Bob Yearick

, War On Words

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

Sports Spoilers

As we’ve noted many times, the sports world is full of coaches, players and commentators who have only a nodding acquaintance with good grammar. This month, between seems to be their nemesis.

Clever t-shirt, but needs a correction: every time – two words.

• Nick Sirianni, new Eagles coach, during his deer-in-the-headlights kickoff presser: “I’ll keep that conversation between the player and I.” Preposition there, Nick, so use the objective case me. Also, like most football coaches (and many broadcasters), Sirianni has a blind spot when it comes to the past participle of to go. Instead of “have gone,” he uttered the all-too-common “have went.” Went is the simple past tense.

• ESPN’s Steven A. Smith went full-on he and I in an interview in USA TODAY. First there was this: “That’s the difference between he and I.” Then, a few sentences later: “The difference between he and I . . .”

• Meanwhile, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, discussing his rapport with a top receiver, managed to be half right (or half wrong) by using the phrase “him and I” in two instances. First, he mentioned “conversations between him and I.” As noted above, between requires the objective case me. Then Rodgers talked about “information only him and I would know.” In this case, the subjective he is correct.

• Finally, a reader notes that in an NBC golf broadcast, Nick Faldo referred to a rules debate involving four golf pros, calling it “a discussion between we professionals.” When more than two people are involved, the correct preposition is among, and, of course, it takes the objective case us

Two Words, Not One

• One of my favorite organizations, the YMCA, announced that it would be closed on Feb. 1 (snow) in an email suggesting that we  Workout at home.” That’s work out, the verb. Workout is the noun.

• And the Delaware Business Times, in a story about the Wilmington Blue Rocks, wrote: “It could be awhile before another phenom appears.” That should be a while, which is a noun phrase meaning “a period of time.” Awhile is an adverb meaning “for a time,” as in “I will rest awhile.”

Mixed Up Idioms

• In a review of Expedition Deep Ocean in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Lucinda Robb wrote: “Make no  bones about it, this is an old-fashioned adventure story.” She meant “make no mistake.” Make no bones about it indicates acting or speaking frankly about something, without hesitation or evasion. Hard to understand how she thought that would apply here.

• This brings to mind a famous mix-up by Justice Clarence Thomas during the 1991 hearings on his appointment to the Supreme Court. Thomas famously said: “. . . from my standpoint as a Black American, as far as I’m concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, . . .” Deign means “to do something beneath one’s dignity,” which is pretty much the opposite of what Thomas meant. He should have said dare.

Department of Redundancies Dept.

• From an Associated Press story about the late NBA coach Paul Westphal: “He led the Charles Barkley-led Suns to the NBA Finals in 1993.” Hey, at least led is spelled correctly.

• Dan Patrick, reading a commercial on his radio show: “Save up to 25 percent off.”

• Keith Pompey in the Inquirer: “It was the Sixers’ resilience in rallying back to post their most gratifying win of the season.” Thanks, Keith, but rallying is enough.

Catching a “Myselfie”

• Two readers called out News Journal Executive Editor Mike Feeley for committing the dreaded “myselfie” in a recent story: “So Talorico, myself and a few other editors met to discuss what to do next.” The readers point out that Feeley should have written “Talorico, a few editors and I.”

How Long, Oh Lord, How Long?

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

Tweet from Kai Ryssdal, host of Marketplace, a business program on public radio: “That’s like 2/3’s of the House Republican caucus.” Amazing.

Word of the Month

exigency
Pronounced EK-si-jen-see, it’s a noun meaning an urgent need or requirement.

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Contact me for a fun presentation on grammar: ryearick@comcast.net.

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