A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse
by Bob Yearick
NOTE: I will be participating in Hockessin Book Shelf’s Local Author Showcase on Saturday, June 18, from 3 to 4 p.m. Stop in and say hello: 7179 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin.
The sports department at The Philadelphia Inquirer, like many departments in newspapers across the country, has undergone extensive changes due to buy-outs and early retirements over the last few years. As a result, the paper lost some gifted writers and gained a few who exhibit sloppy writing habits.
• Inky newbie Josh Tolentino leads off with two excerpts from one story:
• “Despite the disparity in size between the three players, not once does (Kenneth) Gainwell drop the weight.” When three or more people or things are involved, the correct preposition is among.
• “In his mind, the weight Gainwell slugs behind him is slight compared to everything he has endured to this point.” We suspect Tolentino meant lugs (to carry or drag). Slugs means to strike someone or something, or to drink something in a large quantity.
• Another relative newcomer, Alex Coffey, writing about flamboyant infielder Johan Camargo: “He’ll have his front toes down, and his heels up, as his legs rock back and forth, back and forth.” As opposed to his back toes?
• Even Inky veteran Jeff McLane ran afoul of the language recently with this: “The Georgia linebacker arrived at the red carpet donned in a blush suit . . .” Don presents a problem for some writers. It means to put on. After you put on (don) a piece of clothing, you wear it, so wearing would have been a better choice here.
• Another Inquirer vet, Joe Juliano, gave us this: “His retirement, announced Wednesday night, couldn’t stop he and his wife, Patty, from ensuring there would be a smooth transition . . .” Joe should’ve chosen the pronoun him (object of the verb stop), but instead he went with phony sophistication — he.
• Bob Nightengale, of USA TODAY, makes one of his frequent appearances with this: “They met secretly, . . . in a deserted, deprecated joint in Oakland.” To deprecate is to express disapproval of. We suspect Bob meant dilapidated (run-down).
• And we submit that Olivia Wilde’s new film, Don’t Worry Darling, needs a comma after “Worry.”
Department of Redundancies Dept.
• Owner of a Jersey shore eatery, interviewed on Philadelphia’s WCAU Channel 10: “We’ve never had this many job openings ever in history.” So, you mean never ever?
• Ed Marinaro, during a long, rambling speech at the NFL draft, called himself “a former ex-Viking.”
• Jori Epstein, writing in USA TODAY: “It was a major epiphany.”
• Savannah Guthrie, co-anchor of NBC’s Today show, referred to “the busy rush hour.
• Jeff McLane in the Inky: “His season ended when he suffered a torn right ACL injury in the Rose Bowl.
• Also, we hear frequent reference to “a new record” as gas prices climb.
We always enjoy hearing from readers, even when they write to correct our grammar. We received two such notes regarding the May issue. As sometimes happens in these cases, both emails contained errors.
The first referred to a subject-verb disagreement on the cover, and it started this way: “I didn’t get passed the front cover of the May 2022 edition of Out & About before I encountered the following statement . . .” The italicized word should be past.
The second referred to the May “War on Words,” in which I discussed instances of writers using squash where quash should have been the choice. The reader wrote: “I think you need to count the ‘squashing/quashing’ battle as lost. ‘Crush/ing’ works in both of the incidents that you sited.” Actually I cited — “mentioned or made reference to” — instances (not incidents). Sited, in the rare occasions when it is used as a verb, means to situate, or place a building.
I should add that both writers were gracious when I pointed out their mistakes. And in regard to squash/quash, Garner’s Modern American Usage (3rd ed.) says “squash” means just one thing: to flatten something by crushing or squeezing.
Word of the Month
Pronounced i-pis-tuh-MOL-uh-jee, it’s a noun meaning the study of knowledge, especially its nature, origin, limits, validity, etc.
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