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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The Big “P” Does English

Posted on January 21, 2013. Filed under: Journalism, Nezza at Hella | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • risqué = sexually suggestive; indecent.
  • condescending = superior, disdainful, supercilious, pompous

The day after the day after the day of is Thursday, December 27, 2012…  that is one of those inane bits of information that actually started out as a thought-train for my next article.  It got derailed.  Regardless, bad poetry is bad poetry.  Best I could do on short notice.  Maybe Tim Burton could turn it into an enduring Christmas classic…   like Nightmare Before Christmas.

There are several reasons for my enjoyment of Nezza’s posts: 

  • really cool pics,
  • skewed take on life,
  • and, that special brand of risqué and irreverent impertinence that does not shy away from self-deprecation for a good story line.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, she does it all in pleasing, flowing English.  I would say “perfect English,” but that would imply that I consider myself to be perfect also.  I am half-way decent at English, and, I find that reading her site is a smooth, seamless experience from start to finish.  There are no linguistic pot-holes to jar the flow of information.  This is the primary reason I return often to her site…   that, and her sideways picture.

Incongruities in sentence construction have the same jarring effect as a pot-hole in a road surface;  hitting one causes the reader to lose focus, forcing a re-read of the sentence to find the correct bridge over the gap.  Several of those in a single article can take all the fun out of reading.  Nezza (hella@sydney), however, is all fun in perfect English (said it anyway, didn’t I?)  No pot-holes.

There is one construction that is quite often incorrectly expressed — the gerund phrase.  I have searched for that one in Nezza’s articles, fully expecting to see it properly presented.  To date, my grazings on her luscious tidbits…   uh…   luscious literary tidbits…   has not revealed even one.  Apparently, when it comes to being a user (of gerunds), she just says, “No!

Now, bloggers, for the most part, are not professionally trained wordsmiths;  skimming just a few sites makes that pretty obvious.  When I hit the inevitable pot-hole, I continue past it without agitation.  These writers are largely just pouring out their impressions of the rapids-infested River of Life in which they find themselves unwittingly immersed.  We are being given a view of restless waters and transient shore-lines as revealed from their individual — and painfully fragile — rafts of existence.

This appraisal is not an instance of condescendingly “cutting them some slack” for their perceived “lesser” linguistic skills.  Languages are built by usage, and the Great Learned, who observed this, created rules based on that natural evolution.  Then, the Great Learned, assuming their “rightful” places as experts-entitled-to-adulation, take credit for giving order to the structure and expect the masses to adhere to their edicts — or be subject to public snickering and finger-pointing.

I snicker not, nor do I point.  (Any intellectual high ground from which I may be speaking is along the order of a soap-box;  the Great Learned will not allow me on their dais.)  These soul-pouring bloggers are, to me, like another group of entities cast with us onto the raging River of Existence, individuals who have met the tragedy called Life and have created their own societies to deal with it and commiserate about it.  I refer to canis lupus, the gray wolf, whose soulful songs linger long and often in Nature’s wilderness air.  In that wilderness called cyber-space, bloggers raise their voices — often alone, sometimes in unison — to rail at Nature or to voice their pain, bewilderment, pleasures and triumphs, all, like the wolf, for the sake of simply expressing.  I celebrate that chorus and do apologize for my socially tone-deaf ear and possibly off-key ululations.

It’s that OTHER group that pulls snickers and finger-pointing from me.  Experts, and their caduceus-carrying heralds, The Media, hereinafter (and, hopefully, unflatteringly) referred to as “The Press (with the big P)” or, simply, “The Big Pee.”  They KNOW EVERYTHING and assume that we, the people, do not.  And, we need to be indoctrinated educated according to their insight — ON EVERYTHING.

That irks me.  It is always a delight to find they are either ignorant of what those other Great Learned have decreed, or they do not proof-read their work…   deadlines, you know.  Gotta get something out there to get a buck from the Great Unwashed.  (That be us, the general public).  We will buy anything that is broadcast, printed, or posted to the internet.  That is common knowledge among experts, you know.

Ergo, this vessel, The Queen Mary, charts a new heading;  all ahead full to giving the raspberry to the elite among us, the EXPERT KNOW-IT-ALLS (professional and free-lancing).

Next up:  To be announced.

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