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

Storm Warnings

The January snow storm provided War with these items, the first two courtesy of a reader. Corrections in parenthesis:
• A CNN reporter: “New Yorkers have began (begun) to dig out and are showing that they haven’t ran (run) out of that New York spirit.”
• Another CNN reporter, this one in D.C.: “The mayor has issued a warning. Her (she) and her team are preparing for the worse (worst).”
• And here’s a redundancy from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking about his city’s storm readiness: “We are prepared for what’s coming up ahead.”

The Extraneous Of

Note to all broadcasters (especially sports broadcasters): There is no need for “of” in such phrases as “not that big of a deal,” “not too smart of a player.” It makes you sound unsophisticated at best, uneducated at worst.

Also, a simple “off” is almost always better than the wordy “off of” in constructions like “he jumped off of the bridge.”

Just Asking . . .

And why do some sports broadcasters drop the g in recognize (pronouncing it “rec-a-nize”) and the c in ecstatic (“ess-tatic”)? We’re talking to you, Mike Quick, Eagles radio color man.

We’re Starting Not to Care

This is getting exhausting. Add golf announcer Johnny Miller to the long list of media people who don’t understand that the phrase is “couldn’t care less.” Commenting on a golfer’s attitude, Miller said, “He could care less.”

Are You Anxious? Eager? Irritated?

A reader explains that anxious is not interchangeable with eager. Anxious implies anxiety; eager implies a hopeful and happy anticipation.

Similarly, she points out that aggravated is not synonymous with irritated, so sentences such as “his condition was aggravated by the drugs prescribed” are incorrect. “People,” she explains, “are not aggravated but rather irritated. E.g., ‘He was irritated (not aggravated) with his employer.’”

Corporate Speak

Speaking of irritating, here are a few corporate terms that should just disappear:
• External thought leader, drill down, think outside the box, win-win, move the needle, metric, incent, deliverables, pre-meeting, preplanning, and “let’s sunset this and move on to the next project (issue, matter-at-hand, etc.).”

Any workplace terms that irritate you? Send ‘em in.

Media Watch

• ESPN commentator: “My favorite antidote about John Gruden . . .” That would be anecdote—a story or account of an incident. Antidote means cure or remedy, especially for an infection or disease.
• From The News Journal (about a death row ruling): “. . . to prevent he or she from testifying.” The verb, prevent, requires objective pronouns—him, her. Yet another example of a writer’s misguided attempt at sophistication.
• Today Show meteorologist Dylan Dreyer also chose the wrong pronoun, which in this case was the objective one: “We are all happy to hear that her and her baby are doing OK.” This calls for the subjective pronoun, she.
• A WDEL reporter, describing a house fire: “Smoke was bellowing out of the windows.” Smoke can’t yell. It was billowing.
• The News Journal again, reporting on the new UD president: “[Assanis] followed behind Patrick T. Harker . . .” How else, a reader asks, would someone follow?
• Reaching back to the Christmas holidays, we find a reader’s note about a double gaffe in The News Journal: “In today’s story on outdoor holiday displays, we are treated to multiple references to Santa Clause (Is he an attorney? An English teacher?) and another to ‘chimney’s on fire.’”

Word of the Month: torpor

Pronounced TOR-puhr, it’s a noun meaning a mental state marked by apathy, lethargy, and inaction.


Contact me for a fun power point presentation on grammar.

Follow me on Twitter: @thewaronwords

Marie Graham
Since 1988, Out & About has informed our audience of entertainment options in Greater Wilmington through a monthly variety magazine. Today, that connection has expanded to include social networking, a weekly newsletter, and a comprehensive website. We also create, manage, and sponsor local events.

    More in:War On Words