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

How Long, Oh, Lord, How Long?

(Inwhichwedocumentthecontinuedabuseofthatmostmisused punctuation mark, the apostrophe). Once again, the Wilmington News Journal makes a contribution with this Oct. 1 “What’s Cooking” headline: “Apple’s aren’t just sweet; try these savory dishes.”

Department of Redundancies Dept.

A WDEL reporter spoke of a bridge that “spans over” the Christina River.

A Janssen’s Market commercial calls the store “truly unique.” As we know—don’t we, gang?—unique means one of a kind. So to call something truly unique is redundant.

And a reader asks why people feel the need to add “of” in such phrases as “too deep of a hole,” “too hard of a day,” and “how big of a difference”?

Media Watch (Our thanks to readers for several of these)

• “Each six-pack bares a map of coastal Delaware . . .”—letter to the editor of the News Journal. Better to have chosen bears, as in “presents,” rather than a word that relates to naked.
• A News Journal story on Prime Hook Beach had this quote: “When I moved here, I had no idea of this brew-ha-ha.” No, the person was not speaking of a coffee shop, but of a controversy —a brouhaha.

• Again from the good ol’ NJ, a source was quoted thus: “The hope is to get 10,000 people to see the exhibit over the 11 weeks it’s running, and we think that’s imminently doable . . .” As is often the case, the reporter either misheard or simply didn’t know the word the source was using. In this case, that word is eminently. Imminently refers to something that will occur at any moment. • From the Newark Post: “‘We’re not teaching a painting class, per say,’ she said.” That would be per se.

• Ex Major Leaguer Harold Baines on the Dan Patrick Show: “He can relish in the big win.” This is becoming epidemic, especially among sports commentators. You simply relish, you don’t relish in. You can, however, revel in a victory.

• A sports talker on 97.5 “The Fanatic” referred to himself as “a Temple alumni.” He’s one person, and thus an alumnus, even though Temple may not be especially proud of having granted him a diploma.

• And it recently occurred to me that WDEL’s tagline, “Broadcasting live from Wilmington, Delaware, you’re listening to WDEL,” is a dangling participle. I mean, you’re not broadcasting live from Wilmington.

My New Pet Peeve

People who pronounce words like strong and straight “shtrong” and “shtraight.” Why do they insist on using that sh sound?

Spot the Errors

Time for another “War” contest. Below is a piece of doggerel submitted by dedicated reader Larry Kerchner. It contains many errors—how many, I won’t stipulate. Some are debatable, and I’m willing to listen to your arguments, should we disagree. Send me your revision (with explanations where you think necessary). We will search the old O&A treasure bin for a suitable prize for the first reader to spot all the errors.

Incase you haven’t noticed, there’s been alot of mispelled words in use around this state for awhile now. I see them alot everyday, and everytime I do I ask myself, “What’s instore for the English language?” Should I just say, “It will be alright?” I’m in Delaware 30 years now, and it still literally gives me a pit in my stomach!


Once again, we must remind the benighted out there that especially is not pronounced “ek-specially.” There is only one c in the word, it appears near the middle, and it is soft, not hard. Similarly, etcetera is not pronounced ek-setera. It’s et-setera.

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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