The War on Words

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

Media Watch
• Reader Joan Burke sends this from the Newark Post: “Before that, he was piloting hobby helicopters, but there was something about drones that peaked his interest, so he decided to buy one.” The correct word is piqued, which in this case means “stimulated.” It also can mean irritated or resentful.
• Heard Geoff Mosher, of 97.5 The Fanatic, refer to the “schematics” of the Eagles’ upcoming season. He’s one of many sportscasters who have bastardized “schematic,” which is an adjective referring to a diagram, especially in electronics, into a noun referring to an NFL team’s plans for a game or a season.
• CNN recently posted a report on a man who was “recovering from a viscous attack by teens.” The typo gremlin made a vicious attack on that sentence.
• USA Today reviewed a new album by R&B singer Faith Evans in which one cut is “One in the Same.” That’s an eggcorn for the proper “one and the same”—a phrase apparently misheard by Ms. Evans and many others.
• From an Associated Press story on Cubs-Yankees 18-inning game: “What was left of the crowd also sung along when the Cubs showed a tape of Harry Caray singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game.’” Sang is the past tense of sing; have sung is the past participle. They’re often mixed up by the masses, but media people should get them right.
• USA Today’s Steve Gardner: “Despite three dominant seasons in South Korea, fantasy owners were completely convinced Thames was a different hitter this year.” Ah, the dreaded dangler. Makes it sound as if fantasy owners spent thee dominant seasons in South Korea, when it was actually Eric Thames of the Milwaukee Brewers.
• And a reader notes that, in a Wilmington News Journal story on baking bread for the needy, the phrase “loafs of bread” appeared. That should be loaves. Apparently the editor and proofreader were loafing.

Department of Redundancies Dept.
• USA Today: “. . . Nicole Kidman, who has four different projects screening [at the Cannes Film Festival].” As opposed to four of the same projects? Admittedly, this is rampant and generally not recognized as a redundancy, but it’s become a personal peeve.
• Reader Jane Buck submits this from the Washington Post: “President Trump’s conversations and statements and braggadocio all live in the same nebulous cloud. . .” Nebulous: “In the form of a cloud.”

Notes of All Sorts
• I recently sat through an interesting talk that was marred by the speaker’s repeated use of inference to mean implication. Although round-heeled grammar descriptivists may accept infer as a synonym for imply, we prescriptivists know that imply means to suggest, while infer means to deduce. The nouns derived from those verbs are similarly defined.
• We write a lot about beer in Out & About—a lot. As a result, the word draft sometimes appears in our stories. Some word nerds may wonder why we don’t use draught. That’s British English and generally only appears here in the Colonies in product marketing.
• A reader heard a commercial for the Chase Center’s wedding and party capabilities with the tag line “We do different.” This is in the grand tradition of the advertising and promotion profession, which has little regard for proper English. There’s the now famous “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should,” and locally, Goldey Beacom College’s “Achieve Greater,” among many others.
• Words I have seen enough of over the past year of political campaigning: pivot, optics and double down. Here’s hoping politicians and pundits find substitutes soon.

Literally of the Month:
An ESPN anchor, engaging in the hyperbole typical of the sports media: “The Cavaliers literally blew the Celtics off the floor.”

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Word of the Month

Pronounced MUHR-mi-dahn, -duhn, it’s a noun meaning one who unquestioningly follows orders.

Quotation of the Month

“When you re-read a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in yourself than there was before.”
—Clifton Fadiman, editor and critic (1904-1999)