The War on Words

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

SI, We Hardly Know Ye

What has happened to the once rigid grammatical standards at Sports Illustrated? First there was this recent gaffe in a subtitle, caught by daughter Danielle: “The Vikings have two rabid receivers who could care less who’s delivering their slants and curls.” As readers of this column know, the correct phrase is couldn’t care less.

Then, not long afterward, there were two miscues in a story by Jenny Vrentas:
• “They were both a couple years away from turning 40.” That should be couple of, unless you’re referring to two people (the couple walked down the street). You have a couple of something, not a couple something.
• “The Browns’ Berea facility permeated with the same ‘Do Your Job’ mantra . . .” Permeate means “spread throughout” or “pervade,” and in this sentence, should be preceded by was. Better to turn the sentence around: “The same ‘Do Your Job’ mantra permeated the Berea facility.”

More Media

Of course, SI is not the only member of the media that is grammar-challenged. A few recent examples:
• Mike Missanelli, 97.5 talker, recently discussed “the amount of arrests” made after the NFC Championship game in Philly. We love Mike, but he continually mangles the language. It’s number of arrests, Mikey.
• Earl Holland, in the sports pages of the News Journal, predicted the Eagles would beat the Vikes, 28-21, and added: “The Eagles’ defense will come to the rescue in aide of Nick Foles.” “In aide” is both redundant (“come to the rescue” already covers it) and wrong here. An aide is a personal assistant. Aid is the word Earl was groping for.
• Actor Dylan McDermott, quoted in Entertainment Weekly: “I think it stops with he and I.” Like many people, Dylan can’t bring himself to acknowledge the preposition and use the proper him and me. Just doesn’t sound sophisticated, you know?
• John Smallwood in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “St. John’s does not have the offensive acumen to fight all the way back from a decent deficit to a team the quality of Villanova.” Never mind the questionable use of decent; acumen means the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions, as in “business acumen.” We’re pretty sure that’s not what John had in mind.
• A crawl on CNN noted that “White House fights to squash concerns about Trump’s mental health.” That’s quash.
• Kansas City Chiefs Coach Andy Reid, commenting on new Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy: “He puts his own flare on things.” That’s flair—unless Andy was implying that Nagy wears 1970s-style pants.
• Margie Fishman in a News Journal story on Bill Russo, communications director for Joe Biden: “Russo graduated UD in 2009.” Say it with me, media: Colleges graduate students, not the other way around. It’s graduated from!
• And finally, a reader spotted this from a delawareonline story: “Joe Senall, left of Hockessin and Liz Snyder of Middletown pay homage to Tom Petty who died this past year at the Hummers Parade in Middletown.” Of the comma-challenged sentence, the reader says: “I didn’t know that Petty was in the parade at the time of his death.”

Literally of the Month

Commentator on a Saturday morning AM radio show: “The New England Patriots are literally a house of cards about to collapse.

How Long, Oh Lord, How Long?

(In which we call out misuse of that most abused punctuation mark, the apostrophe.)
Someone on the McDaniel Crest website recently offered “Free National Geographic’s.”

Department of Redundancies Dept.

Reader Maria Hess cites a classic case of redundancy in a radio commercial for Wilmington’s Columbus Inn that begins, “Being a successful professional is hard work, and it isn’t always easy.” True enough; hard work is, by its very nature, not easy.