The War on Words – Nov. 2016

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

Surfing the (Radio) Waves

I continue to torture myself by tuning in to sports talk radio. Here are some random gaffes I heard in just one day of listening (corrections in parentheses):
• “He’s a Michigan alumni” (alumnus).
• “He went nuc-u-lar” (nuclear is pronounced the way it’s spelled: nuke-lee-r).
• “I would have went (gone) with the other guy.”
• “I couldn’t believe the amount (number) of audibles he called.”
• “Because he got fired, I feel badly” (bad, because it does not describe an action, but a feeling. If referring to your sense of touch, then badly would apply).
• And finally: “The truth of the matter is is that . . .” (the dreaded double is).

Media Watch

The first two items come from our favorite, the Wilmington News Journal:
• In an editorial the day after the first presidential debate: “Us grown-ups who did stay up to watch have one thing to say . . .” That’s we grown-ups.
• Quoting a contestant in a sand castle contest at the shore: “You get honed in on it and lose track of time pretty quickly.” Hone means to sharpen, and it needs no preposition, such as “in.” To home in, needed here, is to focus or target.
• From Living Well magazine: “I have been through the gambit of traditional treatments for back and neck pain.” Gamut, meaning range or scope, was the word needed here. Gambit is a ploy or scheme.
• From the New York Times: “Photos showed a man believed to be Mr. Rahami laying on the sidewalk . . .” That should be lying. Lie means to recline; lay mean to place or put.

More Movie Mix-Ups

Following up on the feature we introduced last month, we hereby submit three movie titles that violate grammar rules (setting aside artistic license):
Can’t Hardly Wait – It’s a double negative. The correct title would’ve been (I) Can Hardly Wait.
Marley and Me – Assuming this phrase begins a sentence, it should be Marley and I.
• And two that are missing apostrophes: Two Weeks(’) Notice and The Ladies(’) Man.

Department of Redundancies Dept.

• Sports columnist Bob Nightengale, in USA Today: “The lively crowd, nearing almost 600, even cheered him during calisthenics.” Choose one, Bob: nearing or almost.
• Headline from The News Journal: “Added competition could mean starters’ jobs could be in jeopardy.” Could it, now?
New Yorker gift subscription form: “Additional gifts have been reduced down to just $89.99.” Wait. They haven’t been reduced up?
• And finally, we leave you, dear reader, to determine if this sign outside a Newark church is redundant: “Praise Worship.”

Send a Picture, Win a Prize

And speaking of readers, here’s a new contest for you: Send us pictures of signs, menus or other public postings with grammatical or spelling errors. The picture with the most errors will receive a gift certificate to a local establishment. Send your entries to Deadline: Nov. 30.

I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.