Once again, for my legion (ahem!) of readers, here is an advance look (No, not a “sneak peek” — what a cliché!) at the next column, which hits the streets in O&A Magazine on May 1. Enjoy.
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
Cease and Desist, Please
OK, it’s time to put a stop to the use of the contraction “there’s” followed by a plural noun. E.g.:
— There’s more people using Twitter than ever before.
— There’s a million things to do.
— There’s several ways to look at this.
Stop and think a minute: You would never write or say “there is several ways …” – would you (and you know who you are)?
Literally of the Month
Wichita State basketball coach about his team’s trip to the Big Dance: “It was literally a magic carpet ride.” And no, his name is not Aladdin.
• Headline on MSNBC: “Crisis in Ukraine sure to dominant talks.” The word is dominate. Dominant is the adjective.
• In a case of “say it ain’t so,” a New Yorker article contained this: “He graduated college …” The phrase, as we’ve said again and again in this losing battle, is “graduated from college.” Colleges graduate students; students don’t graduate colleges.
• In our March issue, a Philip Seymour Hoffman film at Theatre N was listed as Before the Devil Knows Your Dead. Should be you’re, of course.
• From a WHYY online story: “The controversy stems over the involvement of Velda Jones-Potter, the city’s former chief strategy advisor.” That’s “stems from.”
Now and then, we tip our hat to someone who rises above the semi-literacy that dominates (there’s that word again) our media. Tirdad Derakhshani of The Philadelphia Inquirer is such a person. In a review of John Leguizamo’s one-man show, he wrote: “Instead of homing in on one topic, as he did in his earlier shows …” Mr. Derakhshani thus becomes one of, oh, five or six people in the western world who use the correct “homing in” instead of “honing in.” To hone is to sharpen.
• Deirdre Imus, a frequent guest on her hubby’s Fox Business Network show, adds a syllable to “athletic.” Like so many people, she inexplicably pronounces it ath-a-letic.
• And did you know? In vehicle, the “-h-” is not pronounced. It’s /VEE-i-kuhl/.
Add to the list of people who misuse words common to their profession or hobby: “grammarians” who spell it “grammer.”
And April reminded us of yet another calendar event that creates an incorrect plural that can be added to “Happy New Years” and “Daylight Savings Time”: “April Fools!” – shouted by someone who has just perpetrated one of those crude, often cruel practical jokes. Yes, it’s April Fool’s (note apostrophe) Day, but the expression is “April Fool!”
Without scripts, actors often mangle the language.
• Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, in her acceptance speech, used “exacerbate” to mean “enhanced,” which has virtually the opposite meaning. She thanked presenter Daniel Day-Lewis with these words: “Thank you, Mr. Day-Lewis. From you it exacerbates this honor and blows it right out of the ballpark.”
• Jane Lynch, the giantess gym coach of Glee fame, was on Jimmy Kimmel, talking about stars mispronouncing names and words during the Oscar telecast. “I felt badly for them,” she said. Now we feel bad for you, Jane. To feel badly would describe tactile problems, to have trouble related to touch.
From a Concord Pet ad: “February has the least amount of days.” Rather than this awkward phrase, it should be simply fewest days. Or, less succinctly, fewest number of days.
Word of the Month
Pronounced i-DAS-i-tee, it’s a noun meaning greediness; good appetite.
Quotation of the Month: “A man will be forgiven even great errors in a foreign language; but in his own, even the least slips are justly laid hold of and ridiculed.” Lord Chesterfield, Letters to His Son (1749).
Seen a good (or bad) one lately? Send candidates to email@example.com.
Buy The War on Words paperback at outandaboutnow.com, at Ninth Street Books in Wilmington, the Hockessin Book Shelf, or on Amazon.