See the April Column Now
For my faithful followers — both of you — here’s an advance look (not a “sneak peek”) at the War on Words column that will appear in the April issue of O&A:
The War on Words
By Bob Yearick
A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse
Hard to Believe, Harry
As the Phillies season gets underway, let us hark back to a few years ago, when Comcast commentator Ricky Bottalico uttered the legendary line: “This is a team which just exhumes energy.” Never mind his misuse of “which” (should be “that”), the major mistake was exhumes. It means to disinter, or dig up (as in a body). What the Rickster meant was “exudes.”
Department of Redundancies Dept.
Verizon customer service recorded message: “At the present time, all representatives are currently assisting other customers.”
• On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the co-author of the Hillary Clinton bio HRC said that Bill Clinton’s role in Hillary’s presidential campaign will be “emulated after” his role in Obama’s campaign. It may be patterned after his role in that campaign, and he may emulate that role, but “emulate after” is a grievous grammatical construction from a supposedly literate author.
• From an AP story: “If offense was the only requirement, Auburn would be a shoe-in for the BCS championship.” The term is shoo-in, which means to urge something in a desired direction, usually by waving one’s arms. The idea behind the word is that the person or thing being shooed is such a sure thing that we can shoo him, her or it in without hesitation.
And the Corporate Semi-Literate Award goes to …
Ford, for a trifecta of grammatical gaffes in its TV commercials:
1. “Go Further” – The slogan, introduced two years ago, uses “further,” the metaphorical or figurative form of the word. It would seem more logical for a car manufacturer to use “farther,” which denotes actual physical distance.
2. Another theme is “Ford Can’t Be Beat.” That last word, of course, should be beaten.
3. And there’s a commercial for Ford pickup trucks in which one actor says something like: “I’m a Chevy guy.” [then, referring to another actor nearby] “Him and his brother own Dodges.” That would be “He and his brother.”
Calling a Penalty
Amazing how many TV types (especially on the sports side) pronounce “penalize” as if it were spelled peen-alize, the first syllable sounding the same as in ball-peen hammer. That initial syllable should sound like the word pin.
We’ve covered these in the past, but it’s time to revisit them:
Averse/adverse – These words are often confused, but their meanings are totally different.
Adverse means unfavorable, contrary or hostile, and is never be applied to humans. Example: “Adverse weather conditions.”
Averse means unwilling, disinclined or loath and is almost always followed by “to.” It applies to a person – e.g., “He was averse to discussing the conference.”
Gamut/Gambit – Gamut is a full range or extent, literally of musical notes, but more often figuratively of anything (“The menu offered the gamut of dining options”).
Gambit is a ploy, maneuver, or strategy, such as “the opening gambit of the chess match.” Misusing “gambit” for “gamut” is an increasingly common malapropism.
Ironic does not mean any kind of amusing coincidence. It means the opposite (outcome) of what was expected; contrary to expectation. E.g., the name of Britain’s largest dog is “Tiny.” Now that’s an ironic name!
Bemused does not mean mildly amused. It means bewildered, confused, engrossed in thought.
How Long, Oh Lord, How Long?(
In which we report the continuing abuse of the apostrophe.)
A reader spotted this sign in a sandwich shop in Elmwood Park, N. J.: “Line form’s to the right.” Really? It never ends, does it?
Add to the list of people who misuse words common to their profession or hobby: “Grammarians” who spell it “grammer.”
Word of the Month
Pronounced sen-tient or sen-shunt, it’s an adjective meaning conscious: capable of feeling and perception.
Quotation of the Month:
“I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagraming sentences.” —- Gertrude Stein, “Poetry and Grammar” (1935), in Perspectives on Style, 1968. (Our comment: Gertie needed to get out more.)
Seen a good (or bad) one lately? Send candidates to email@example.com. Also, if you need a speaker for your book group, service club, etc., contact me for an entertaining power point presentation about the quirks of the English language.
Buy The War on Words paperback at outandaboutnow.com, at Ninth Street Books in Wilmington, the Hockessin Book Shelf, or on Amazon.