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


And I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen “every time” misspelled as one word.

Thank you, Super Bowl

The Super Bowl and its endless media coverage proved to be a bonanza for “War.” Examples:

• In an ESPN feature, Jerry Jones, the loquacious owner of the Dallas Cowboys, said the charge that he is constantly meddling in coaching decisions is “a misnomer.” Like many people, he apparently doesn’t know that misnomer means a wrong or inaccurate name or designation. What he meant was misconception. It’s truly a case of irony that the way misnomer is used is often a misnomer.

• Mark Mervine, an English teacher at Charter School of Wilmington, reminds us that in Kansas City’s last Super Bowl appearance—50 years ago—Chiefs Coach Hank Stram was mic’d up and was heard to utter this now famous line: “Just keep matriculatin’ the ball down the field, boys.” He thus convinced a generation of football fans that matriculate means to “progress” or “advance.” Not so. It means to enroll as a member of a body, especially of a college.

• And then there was this caption from USA TODAY: “Actor Tony Shaloub is among those who is not sad the Patriots are not in the Super Bowl.” That second “is” should be are; it refers to “those.”

Media Watch

The Wilmington News Journal and USA Today dominate this month’s errata:

• From Delawareonline: “Yet President Trump will still eek out reelection, in part by flipping Virginia.” If Trump does eke out a victory, it will no doubt elicit cries of “Eek!” from Democrats.

• Jarrett Bell in USA TODAY, writing about an on-field altercation between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers: “. . . guard David DeCastro was diffusing the situation.” Bell thus joins the legion of writers who use diffuse/diffusing to mean defuse/defusing.

• Joe DeCamara, host on SportsRadio 94WIP, referring to the Houston Astros’ World Series title: “They should put an asterik next to that.” For some reason, many people mispronounce asterisk (“asterix” is another popular variation), but a sports talk show host should not be among them.  It’s pronounced pretty much as it’s spelled: asta-risk.

• Dr. Donna Patterson, associate professor of history and chair of Delaware State University’s Department of History, Political Science and Philosophy, wrote this in TNJ: “Yet we cannot permit what is at best homogenization and at worse appropriation to turn history on its ear.” The comparison is best to worst.

• Novelist Lee Child, in Worth Dying For, has his hero, Jack Reacher, say: “That old barn and that old shed fell right between the cracks.” Things and people fall through cracks and between slats.

• Reader Mike Dinsmore spotted this in the TNJ sports section: “Stefanie, who scored her 1,000th point earlier this year and is being highly recruited, will take the reigns next season in what will be the final year John gets to coach a daughter.” Stefanie will reign while taking the reins.

How Long, Oh Lord, How Long?

(In which we point out the continued abuse of that most misused punctuation mark, the apostrophe)

Reader Jim Berman gives us this unbelievable gaffe from TNJ: “Now the five-month wait begins until Firefly Music Festival kick’s off in Dover for its ninth year.” Even verbs aren’t safe from this ongoing atrocity.

Department of Redundancies Dept.

Mark Medina, in USA TODAY: “The Pelicans expect a sold-out capacity crowd . . .”

Literally of the Month

This one comes from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell via reader Larry Kerchner: “Partisanship has literally consumed the House of Representatives.” Don’t think so, Mitch. The House still stands.

Word of the Month

Pronounced RAH-duh-mont, it’s a noun meaning a vain boaster. (Wait. Is that redundant?)

Follow me on Twitter: @thewaronwords

Need a speaker for your organization? Contact me for a fun presentation on grammar: ryearick@comcast.net.

Seen a good (bad) one lately? Send your candidates to ryearick@comcast.net

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Bob Yearick
The copy editor of Out & About, Bob Yearick retired from DuPont in 2000 after 34 years as an editor and writer. Since “retiring,” Bob has written articles for Delaware Today, Main Line Today and other publications. His sports/suspense novel, Sawyer, was published in 2007. His grammar column, “The War on Words,” is one of the most popular features in O&A. A compilation of the columns was published in 2011. He has won the Out & About short story contest as well as many awards in the annual Delaware Press Association writing contest.

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