The War On Words – July 2015

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

Niceties

• A News Journal columnist, describing a letter from his Uncle Tony: “[It was] written . . . on thick, unlined stationary.” It was stationery that Uncle Tony wrote on, although he was probably stationary at the time.
• Similarly, many people don’t know that a hangar is where planes are kept, while hangers are used to store clothes in your closet.
• A WDEL announcer called an earthquake “a trembler.” An understandable mistake, since the word is temblor.

Grammar-Challenged Slogans

In the spirit of the old-time ad that claimed Miller Lite contained “a third less calories,” we note a trend among advertisers to sacrifice good grammar in the name of supposedly clever slogans. Some that we’ve noticed (all of which seem to be in the form of commands):
• “Achieve Greater”—Goldey Beacom College.
• “Go Further”—Ford (Farther, referring to distance, would be more accurate for a car, although they could be speaking metaphorically).
• “Live Fearless”—Independence Blue Cross.
We’re sure there are more. Send in your examples.

Media Watch

• Call this the buried subject. A caption in The News Journal read: “A list of target infrastructures were released by DelDOT . . .” The subject of the sentence is not infrastructures but list, so it should be “was released.”
• Again, from TNJ: “‘It’s important to always air on the side of caution,’ says Kevin Charles.” The word the reporter was groping for, of course, was err.
• Sports radio host Dan Patrick, speaking of a guest’s songwriting efforts: “He hasn’t quite flushed that out yet.” Like many people, Dan confuses “flushed out” with the proper “fleshed out.”
• Later in the week, again speaking about music, Patrick was heard to say: “Bo Ryan would’ve sang along with it.” That’s sung, Dano.

Kudos

Despite an unending deluge of bad grammar, punctuation, syntax and pronunciation in the media and elsewhere, we find the occasional bright spot. This month, we present three of those shining lights.

First, in what would normally fall under “Literally of the Month,” we call attention to one of our own writers—the estimable Larry Nagengast. In his story on the Riverfront in the June issue, Larry mentioned Legends Stadium (later renamed Frawley Stadium), and wrote this: “At the time [1992], the stadium was, literally and figuratively, pretty much the only diamond on the banks of the Christina.” That, my friends, is the way to use “literally.”

And under a new category, Word Warrior, we congratulate reader Walt DelGiorno. A retired teacher and tireless grammarian, Walt watches (and plays) a lot of golf, and finds most golf announcers and shows woefully lacking in language skills. He noticed that CBS broadcasts inserted incorrect apostrophes in references to pars—e.g., “par 3’s, par 4’s, and par 5’s.” He emailed the network about the error and received no answer. But a short while later, he noticed that CBS had removed the offending apostrophes. We have used several of Walt’s items in the past, and he always refuses credit, but in this case we talked him into allowing us to publish his name. Congratulations, Walt DelGiorno, our very first Word Warrior.

Do you have an achievement in the War on Words that would qualify you as our second Word Warrior? Send it in.

And finally: I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones, and Stannis Baratheon recently became my favorite character on the show. In an early episode this season, someone said, “That will mean less enemies for all of us.” “Fewer,” the stellar Stannis corrected. To which we add, bravo!