A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse
We start with three from that old reliable, USA TODAY:
• Bryan Alexander in a review of No Time to Die: “The appreciation only grew seeing the historically unchartered depths of the relationship between Bond and Madeline.” Uncharted — unexplored or unmapped — is the word needed here. Unchartered means “without a charter.”
• Frequent contributor Bob Nightengale came through with a subject/verb nonagreement: “Each of them have earned World Series rings, but only one played in MLB, and that was 50 years ago.” Each is the singular subject, so the verb should be has.
• Reader Rick Straitman gives us this almost unbelievable gaffe from Delawareonline: “. . . reports from the scene said at least one person needed to be extradited from a vehicle.” Extricated would be the appropriate word here. We assume the injured person was not a criminal who was to be transported to another jurisdiction (extradited).
• Oh, those old jocks. Former NFL quarterback Carson Palmer, on The Dan Patrick Show, called a current quarterback “laxadaisical.” Later, according to son Steven, retired Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz repeated the same mispronunciation of lackadaisical while doing TV commentary on the World Series.
• Joe Juliano, writing in The Philadelphia Inquirer about overtime rules in college football: “Teams get only two possessions from the opponent’s 25-yard-line, and then the period becomes a dual of two-point conversion attempts . . .” Joe meant duel, a conflict between antagonistic persons, ideas, or forces.
• And finally, we exit the media with this gargoyle of a comment from Kyle Rittenhouse’s attorney: “To say we’re not relieved by this verdict is a gross misunderstatement.”
On the Plus Side
Daughter Danielle commends Pep Boys for their slogan, “We go further to help you go farther,” wherein the auto parts store uses both those italicized words correctly. Further, of course, refers to figurative distances, while farther is used for physical distances. Clever.
I’m a member of the Facebook group “The Punsters,” which allegedly is for those who enjoy puns — “the usually humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound.” (The classic example is “Denial is a river in Egypt.”)
Often, however, many of the entries are not puns at all. That led me to research other words that define humorous remarks, and I came up with these:
• quip — A clever remark, made on the spur of the moment.
• gibe — A quip that is taunting.
• bon mot — An intellectual step up from a quip, it’s a witty remark, not necessarily made on the spur of the moment.
• rejoinder — A sharp or witty reply.
• riposte — A quick, clever reply to an insult or criticism.
• banter — The playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks.
Missing on Misnomer
Speaking of words that are misused, I give you misnomer, as in this letter to The Philadelphia Inquirer: “Elizabeth Wellington’s Sept. 22 column about the Tiffany ad has several misnomers.” The letter went on to point out mistakes in the column. A misnomer, however, is a specific kind of mistake: an inappropriate name for something. Starfish and jellyfish, for instance, are not fish at all. And that “funny bone” on your elbow? It’s actually a nerve.
Department of Redundancies Dept.
• The sainted New Yorker, in an article by M. R. O’Connor, committed the classic “a harbinger of things to come.” Surely O’Connor knows a harbinger is a person or thing that signals the approach of another, a forerunner.
• David Murphy in The Inquirer: “The Knicks are an interesting test case for a number of different reasons.” Amazing how often different is used unnecessarily.
• In the Netflix show You, a TV reporter said that a man who had committed suicide left “a written letter.” Maybe the actor misread “hand-written letter” in the script.
• From a recent issue of Time magazine, in an essay by Nicole Young of U. S. News: “I hear many of my fears echoed back.”
• And I heard Gov. John Carney utter the term “co-partners.”
Word of the Month
Pronounced uh-gran-dyz, it’s a verb meaning to increase the power, status, or wealth of.
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