English: Gerunds, Fantasy, And The Splits

Posted on February 6, 2013. Filed under: grammar, Journalism, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • gerund = noun formed from a verb (verb + ing) 
  • gerund phrase = the gerund with modifiers
  • if-were = supposition of that which cannot be
  • unwieldy = unmanageable due to size or complexity

Before tackling those split ends, let’s rib a Gulf Coast newspaper that thoughtfully provided several goofs on one page.  That would be The Houston Chronicle, down in Houston, Texas.  Its issue of January 16, 2013, thoughtfully provided several goofs on one page.  Section B, page 1, is the site that caught my sight.

In the lower half of the page, there is an article featuring statements from U.S. Senator John Cornyn (Republican Whip, Texas) about the possibility of defaults in federal spending obligations.  This article is credited to Joe Holley of the Chronicle.  So, right off, I point at the article title.

The title Cornyn assures ‘we’re not going to default.’  Double marks are used for a quote; single marks are used for a quote within a quote.  The single marks used in this title get caught up with that apostrophe and give it a real funky look.  And, yet, within the story, double marks are used for direct quotes.  The title of the article just below this one also uses single marks while using double marks in the story itself.  Maybe you guys are using singles in the title to save space, but that doesn’t make it correct.

How ’bout the gerund phrase?  Here, it is exerpted from the sentence:  “…will not allow an impasse over raising the debt ceiling to result in the federal government defaulting on its spending obligations.”  “Defaulting” is the noun; “federal government” identifies the owner of the act of defaulting — possessive case.  That phrase should read:

  • “…result in the federal government’s defaulting on…”

Commas get a little difficult to manage, too.  This sentence, “I will tell you unequivocally, we’re not going to default,” has either l comma too few or 1 comma too many.  As it is, it is a single sentence — not a compound sentence — and needs no comma.  If the word “unequivocally” is being emphasized, there should also be a comma after “you.”

The article below “Cornyn” also has a couple of missteps (according to me).  It is actually a eulogy for a local celebrity, so my nit-picking should not be construed to reflect on him.  This article is the handiwork of that wordsmith, David Barron, also of the Chronicle.  Lets start with the “unwieldy” thing:

  • Brown came to Houston in 1972 to work for Channel 11 but spent the bulk of his 50-year career in television at Channel 13, where he worked from 1972 through 2008, most of that time as a fixture on the station’s “good Morning, Houston” program and on its morning newscasts.

Take a breath.  That was one sentence, one paragraph, and 51 words.  Yes, there are a couple of commas missing from it.

The if-were tandem failed to make the cut in this article.  Right after the 50-word sentence, the paragraph starts, “If there was some way for Doug to bottle his attitude and sell it, he could get rich.”  The author is quoting another eulogy for Brown, but, he should have caught this.  Hypothetical postulations about what can not or did not happen use the if-were tandem.  That sentence should start, “If there were some way…”

These missteps belong to the allegedly PROFFESSIONAL writers and proofreaders presenting this stuff.   If you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band.*  You EXPERTS want to act superior to the rest of the citizenry, but, you are way too often deficient in the use of the very tool upon which you rely.  You presumptively ridicule, conduct kangaroo courts in your “reporting,” assume holier-than-thou postures, ostracize, humiliate, endanger lives…   I’m going to need a bigger soapbox from which to express my distaste.  If you insist on being society’s judge and teacher, at least FIND THAT DAMN FIDDLE AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO PLAY IT!

 _________________________

*A song by the group Alabama (Al Gore’s information highway wouldn’t give the name of the author, but there is a ton of videos for Alabama.)

Next up:  Maybe it will be about that split-infinitive thing

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2 Responses to “English: Gerunds, Fantasy, And The Splits”

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Reblogged this on mykentuckyliving and commented:
The language teacher in my loves posts about grammar. Sorry, but I really do!

[…] gave me a total surprise by re-blogging my English:  Gerunds, Fantasy, and the Splits.  mssheilasu, I owe you a re-blog…   as soon as I figure out […]


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