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

by Bob Yearick

Media Watch

USA Today and The Philadelphia Inquirer lead the gaffe gang this month with three each.


•Duane Rankin, referring to LeBron James drinking from the fountain of youth — “He must have took an even bigger gulp before Saturday’s matchup against Golden State.” C’mon, Duane, how can a professional writer not know it’s have taken?

•Scott Gleeson — “There are photos of him (basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale) with every celebrity from Jennifer Lopez to Pope Benedict XVI.” Sorry, but to me the “from _____ to ______” construction is imprecise and lazy writing. How many celebrities are in this group? Better to make it something like “. . . celebrities as disparate as Jennifer Lopez and Pope Benedict XVI.”

•Then there was this quote from Dan Monson, former Gonzaga men’s basketball coach (which almost landed in the Department of Redundancies Dept.) — “When you establish a winning culture at a program, the easiest and best way to keep it going is to promote an assistant up.” It’s not always wrong to end a sentence in a preposition, but in this case it is.

From The Inquirer:

•Alex Coffey chose the incorrect pronoun after a preposition — “Jeurys Familia told reporters he believes he ‘paid for what happened’ after the incident between he and his wife.” That should be “between him and his wife,” of course. Object of preposition, Alex.

•Gina Mizell abused the language thusly — “The next step, Byington said, is to squash the impulse for outsiders to peg women in the industry against each other.” This sentence presents several problems, and I’m not sure it says what Gina meant, but it would be improved by substituting quash and pit for the italicized words.

•Matt Breen also went squashing (crushing, squeezing) when he should have gone quashing (suppressing, quelling) — “Chamberlain ultimately declined Katz’s proposal, squashing any dreams of The Big Dipper playing alongside Dr. J.”

We round out Media Watch with a couple of local items:

•A reader spotted this in The News Journal’s story about the untimely death of Dr. Terrance Newton, beloved principal of Warner Elementary: “Terrance Newton experienced violence and poverty that resulted in him working on keeping students away from it.” The possessive ­— in this case, his ­— should be used with a gerund (working).  This is something many writers never learn, so they incorrectly use the objective case.

•Another reader points out this error in “Taking It to the Streets” in the March Out & About: “As an artist, we bare witness.” Nope, we bear witness.

From the World of Entertainment

•Bob Odenkirk, star of Better Call Saul, during an interview on NBC’s Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist: “I’m going to feel badly when I watch the final season of the show.” No, Bob, you’ll feel bad. Your tactile abilities hopefully will remain unimpaired.

•Actor Chris Pine, quoted in USA TODAY: “It was dead winter in Romania, so it was absolutely blisteringly cold.” Unless this was some oblique reference to cold sores, Chris should have found another adjective. Blisteringly almost always describes extreme heat, not cold conditions. 

•And O&A film critic Mark Fields contributes this from the website Outsider: “Is there a new ‘1883’ episode this Sunday?’ Sadly, my fellow Taylor Sheridan fans, there is not. Last week, we saw the 10th and penultimate episode of ‘1883.’” Quoting Merriam-Webster: “People confuse penultimate and ultimate believing the prefix ‘pen-‘ simply adds more emphasis to the word ‘ultimate.’ This is not the case. The ‘pen-‘ prefix means ‘almost’ and thus ‘penultimate’ means ‘next to last.’” 

Department of Redundancies Dept.

•Subhead in USA TODAY: “Tar Heels are unexpected surprise in Final Four that has something for all.”

•Similarly, Hoda Kotb, co-anchor of Today on NBC: “There’s been a surprise twist in the retirement of Tom Brady.”

•And over at ABC News, Dr. Jennifer Ashton, chief medical correspondent, spoke of “the onus of responsibility.” Onus: burden, responsibility, obligation.

Literally of the Month

Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez: “We literally breathed baseball growing up.” Obviously, Julio also got an adequate amount of oxygen; dude is 6-3, 228 pounds.

Word of the Month


Pronounced heh-JEM-muhnee, it’s a noun meaning leadership or dominance, especially by one country or social group over others.

Follow me on Twitter: @thewaronwords

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

Buy The War on Words book at the Hockessin Book Shelf or by calling Out & About at (302) 655-6483.

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.

    More in:War On Words