The War on Words – Nov 2015

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

Media Watch

• Subhead in Sports Illustrated: “To return to the limelight, USC will ride the right arm of Cody Kessler, so much like, yet so much different than the famous line of quarterbacks who preceded him.” People and things are different from, not different than.
• From Delaware Business Times: “It also marked the beginning of decades of work with Levin, who took over the reigns of the company.” That would be reins. The same article reports that Levin “may be most qualified to expound her strengths.” Expound must be followed by “on” or “upon.” He could, however, extol her strengths.
• Reader Karen Foster, of Hockessin, reports that the increasingly fallible New York Times said that a visiting Australian artist, in his first few days in the city, had been “through the ringer.” Says Karen: “I guess you have to be old enough to have seen your mother or grandmother actually putting clothes through the wringer of a washing machine.”
• And finally, a News Journal obituary claimed the deceased was “formally of Pennsauken, N. J.” Also, he was formerly alive.

Hard to Believe, Harry

(In honor of the late Richie Ashburn, Phillies announcer, who would utter those words to his broadcast partner, the late Harry Kalas, after he had witnessed something incredibly stupid on the field.)
• In an article on the empty CIGNA building on Naamans Road that is up for sale, the News Journal reported that “office vacancy rates in New Castle County have remained stoic over the past year.” We think the writer meant static.
• From the Washington Post, courtesy of reader Jane Buck: “All in all, though, the program is helping millions of Americans make due.” That would be do.

Black Mark for Black Mass

Have you seen Black Mass—the Whitey Bulger bio starring Johnny Depp? In the closing comments, there is this: “After more than 10 years on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, an anonymous tip led to the capture of Whitey Bulger.” The tip was not on the Most Wanted list, Bulger was.

Sports Shorts

IMG_0571beert-shirt.JPG• Yogi Berra’s passing reminds me that most people utter “it’s déjà vu all over again” without irony. Déjà vu, from the French, literally means “already seen,” and refers to one’s sense that an event currently being experienced has been experienced before. Thus, “all over again” is redundant.
• In an otherwise flawless and, as usual, eloquent column, Bill Lyon, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote of Moses Malone’s legacy: “. . . let the mists of time envelope it.” That’s the noun. Bill meant to use the verb, envelop.
• No sooner had we mentioned the misuse of conundrum (in the September War) than Meghan Montemurro, of the News Journal, wrote this: “Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin has a conundrum. And making it particularly problematic is that it involves veteran first baseman Ryan Howard.” To repeat: a conundrum is a riddle, the answer to which involves a pun or play on words, as in, “What is black and white and read all over? A newspaper.”

Department of Redundancies Dept.

Xfinity/Comcast headline: “10 dog breeds that live the longest lives.”

Literally of the Month

“She literally played out of her mind”—97.5 sports talker commenting on Flavia Pennetta, who won the Women’s U. S. Open Tennis title. A simple “played out of her mind” would have worked.

Getting Political

As predicted, Presidential candidates continue to supply us with items. During a debate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told a couple of his opponents that “people could care less about” their accomplishments in the business world. Yo, Guv, that’s couldn’t care less.

Word of the Month

Pronounced HOL-uh-fraz-um, it’s a noun meaning a one-word sentence; for example, “Go.”
Secondary meaning: a complex idea conveyed in a single word, e.g., “Howdy” for “How do you do?”

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