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


Not Alright
There’s a movie named The Kids Are Alright, and a song called “Be Alright,” and neither of them is right—the title, that is. All right is two words, despite what you may see on Facebook (that enemy of good grammar) and in many emails.

Speaking of Films . . .
I’m a big movie and TV fan, and over the years I’ve seen and heard many grammatical miscues. Here are a few that I jotted down:

1. In the closing credits of the 2015 movie Black Mass: “After more than 10 years on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, an anonymous tip led to the capture of Whitey Bulger.” That’s a dangler; Whitey Bulger was on the Most Wanted list, not an anonymous tip.

2. From the HBO series The Wire: A sign in police headquarters over the men’s room reads, “For officer’s only.” Ah, the grocer’s apostrophe raises its ugly head again.

3. In the same category, while watching no more than a moment or two of the Showtime series Penny Dreadful, I spotted a plaque on the door to The Explorers Club identifying it as “The Explorer’s Club.” Talk about exclusive!

4. From the 1986 film Manhunter: A newspaper headline reads, “FBI Persues Pervert.” That’s pursues, of course. Hollywood often neglects to proofread its “newspapers.”

5. From the 2012 movie Parental Guidance, we have Billy Crystal saying to Bette Midler, “You must’ve sang that to the kids a hundred times.” The present perfect of sing is sung.

6. Crystal also committed a gaffe in his 2015 TV series The Comedians when he spoke of “the chemistry between Josh (Gad, his co-star) and I.” The preposition between requires the objective case me.

7. And, of course, there’s the infamous movie title Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. The past tense of shrink is shrank.

Can you add to the list? If so, email me with the gaffes you’ve discovered in movies or on television.

More Tales from the Banking Industry
Our friend in banking occasionally sends examples of corporate speak from staff meetings. His latest attests to the growing and pretentious trend to change nouns into verbs. (Cover your eyes for this one): “I don’t know how to solution that problem.”

Media Watch
• A reader says that a recent story in the Wilmington News Journal reported that thousands of UD students signed a petition against a Newark ordinance governing parties. The petition reads, in part: “Us students work day and night on our rigorous workload . . .”  Maybe if grammar were part of that workload, the author of that petition (probably a dedicated partier) would have known that we is the correct pronoun in this case.

• Dan Patrick, on his eponymous radio show, noted that there was jub-u-lation in Cleveland when the Browns acquired Odell Beckham Jr. The word jubilation is pronounced pretty much as it’s spelled: jub-a-lation. The more I listen to Dan, the more often he appears in this column.

• Barry Melrose, ESPN’s hockey commentator: “That goal should have went in.” The sports guys on radio and TV are consistent in their misuse of went where gone belongs.

How Long, Oh Lord, How long?
(In which we address the misuse of that most-abused punctuation mark, the apostrophe)

Reader Janet Strobert calls out this sentence from a News Journal story about a man who offered meat for gas money: “But 19-year-old Jeffrey Brannock say’s he’s met the meat man, too.” That one may be a unique misuse of an apostrophe.

Ah, the Vagaries of the Language
Noting that the decision on a recent multi-million-dollar law suit hinged on a missing serial comma, daughter Danielle, a lawyer, says she is waiting for the class action suits that will surely result from Webster’s double definition of biweekly: “occurring every two weeks; occurring twice a week.” Yeah, that’s real definitive.

Word of the Month

Pronounced ri-zis-TEN-shul-iz-um, it’s a noun meaning the theory that inanimate objects demonstrate hostile behavior toward us.

Follow me on Twitter: @thewaronwords

Need a speaker for your organization? Contact me for a fun presentation on grammar: 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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