A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse
by Bob Yearick
The Double Superlative . . .
. . . is alive and well among Philadelphia’s sports broadcasters. Recent examples:
•Former Eagle Barrett Brooks, now an analyst for NBC Sports Philadelphia, noted that last year’s Eagles “were one of the most healthiest teams we’ve seen in a long time.”
•Andrew Salciunas, talk show co-host on 97.5 The Fanatic, opined that “Scrubs was one of the least funniest shows ever.”
Most Unique, Very Unique
A reader asks us to remind all you word warriors that “it is not correct to describe something as the most unique, or even very unique, a common error.”
Example: A recent ad for The Bradford Exchange, which calls itself “The most unique selection of fine collectibles, perfect gifts and more.”
Unique means the only one of its kind; unlike anything else. Thus, there are no degrees of unique.
•Peruse means pretty much the opposite of what most people think it means. It does not mean to skim a book or article or other piece of writing. It means to read it thoroughly or carefully.
•You should not pronounce the t in often. You don’t pronounce it in listen, glisten or soften, do you?
•David Letterman, in his Netflix show My Next Guest, told Billy Eilish: “Power emulates from you.” Dave meant emanates. Emulate means to copy or imitate.
•Peter MacArthur, on WDEL: “When police arrived to the scene . . .“ When did this trend begin, substituting “arrived to” for the traditional “arrived at”?
•Headline during weather forecast on 6ABC Philadelphia: “The peek of heat arrives tomorrow.” That’s peak (highest, topmost). Peek means a glance or quick look. (And no, it doesn’t have to be preceded by sneak.)
•Editor’s note from an online sports report: “Hey, we’re covering tennis! And wrestling! And baseball! Hope you guys have enjoyed the coverage of perepherial sports this spring . . .” This is an especially creative spelling of peripheral (outlying, marginal, minor). It’s usually misspelled and mispronounced as peripheal.
•Copy editors at Dutton dropped the ball in this passage from Harlan Coben’s novel Missing You: “Titus would pretend he was a soldier being deployed and needing to sell a vehicle . . ., sending perspective buyers bogus registration and information.” That’s prospective.
•We often pick on USA TODAY (and rightfully so), but we need to acknowledge a rarity on its pages: Melissa Ruggieri’s correct use of penultimate in her review of the next to last episode of This Is Us, describing it as “the exquisite penultimate episode (‘The Train’).” (Not being fans of cry porn, we’ll take her word for it.)
As I watched the Today show’s coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, I was reminded of long-time reader Walt DelGiorno, who over the years has railed against the incessant, and often questionable, use of iconic to describe all manner of people and things. Sure enough, Today reporters noted “the iconic balcony” on Buckingham Palace, and “the iconic shot” of that balcony.
Walt’s current irritant is a commercial for the all-electric Cadillac, which concludes by urging viewers to “Be Iconic.”
Asks Walt: “How can you ‘be iconic’? It seems like whether you are an icon or iconic would be determined by other people, and I don’t think just driving an electric Cadillac would do it.”
Asked if we could use his name, Walt replied: “Sure. Perhaps if you use it enough I’ll become an icon.”
Department of Redundancies Dept.
•Hoda Kotb reported on NBC’s Today that “the whole entire team lined up” when a lacrosse player who had been ill returned to competition. “Whole entire” is a silly redundancy that no professional broadcaster should utter.
•Steve Shaw, the NCAA national coordinator of officials, quoted in USA TODAY: “Some of these issues in our game are intertwined together.”
•Caption in USA TODAY: “Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky says a push from his friend, Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, helped push him into a broadcasting career.” The repetition could’ve been avoided with an edit, such as “helped persuade him to go into broadcasting.”
Word of the Month
Pronounced PY-seen, it’s an adjective meaning fishy.
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