Friday, February 27, 2015

Write words and right words

It really is
What you say


THE INTENT OF THIS RANT was to take local and national talking heads - so-called reporters, news readers (tv anchors), and editors to task for so cavalierly abusing the language.

This faux pas that set me off was a local's use of two words together: casualty and injured person.

It would have been OK if the pseudo-reporter had said: The injured person was a casualty of the collision, but she didn't. The way it was spoken told listeners that the speaker failed to realize the words are synonyms.

But as often happens, I got sidetracked. (It happens more when I use my unabridged than when I use online dictionaries, but it happens still.)

I suppose I used a search engine to confirm what I already knew, that "casualty" and "injured" were synonyms; I ended up on Merriam-Webster Online. Mind I've got this site bookmarked, but it was hot today (80s) and I felt lazy.

IN ANY EVENT, I ended up at

All of a sudden I didn't care if someone reported an accident east of 100 and first street (vs. the correct 100-first street - sans the "and"). It didn't bother me (as much) when I hear someone report that a building was "robbed" when in fact it was "burglarized."

I had word - mind - games to play thanks to M-W.

Florida, where I happily reside, is getting rid of some of the "Teach To Test" tests to which I say "Bravo!" Some good teachers were driven away from the profession because they had to "teach for tests" rather than teach to inculcate a love of learning. My Number One (eldest) son gave up the classroom for a gun and badge because of the focus on tests. (It's probably safer.)

We had tests in my day, too, but the tests were classroom tests. Since classroom grades were based on both tests and classroom participation, students who did poorly in one area might shine in the other.

"He died as the result of a fatal gunshot wound." Yep, and he was shot and killed, too.

When the Air Force and I parted company - back when Hector was a pup - my second civilian job was as a bank boy at the local daily newspaper. (My first civilian job was as a ward clerk/go'fer at a hospital out in the sticks - two buses and a long hike on Shank's Mare.)

Back in the day, most newspaper writers knew the language and used it correctly. Nary a Wm. Frank Buckley Junior, Hubert Horatio Humphrey, or Abba Eban (originally Aubrey Solomon Meir Eban) perhaps, but literate. Even the Sports guys, albeit none could match prose of Howard Tell it like it is Cossell nee' Cohen, actually could communicate in "plain English."

My Spouse, who speaks English as a fourth language, cringes when she hears "most unique." It's a family competition to see who can react fastest to that and similar grammatical "fox paws." I consider it unfortunate that my daughter, an English teacher, follows the Fowlers while I remain committed to GPO/Harvard/U Chicago rules. She sometimes fractures phrases and splits infinities, but at least she knows that "unique" cannot be modified

As for Winnie Churchill's (in)famous remark disparaging "gooder grammar"" “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.” , he famously let his ego get in the way and committed not one but two errors my grammar school teachers never would allow to pass sans critical comment.

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