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

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

Passion: The Intervention

Posted on March 4, 2012. Filed under: General Interest, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

C’mon!  Get outta here!!  PCs got passion?  Sneakers got passion?  If you doubt that, pay attention to those television ads.

The “how to” guide I read that introduced me to this blogging thing makes the innocent observation up front that, at some point, I must get passionate about this pursuit if I wish to be “successful” at it.  Fair enough, I can concur with that usage, but, the author almost lost me a few paragraphs later when, in lieu of the word interests, he plugged in passions — repeatedly.  Within the context of that author’s point, I — like the cheetah — would have “checked out all the interesting choices, made a selection, then broke into an all-out passionate sprint toward the goal.”  Actually, had I written the manual, the words passion and passionate would not have appeared at all.  There are too many other words available without resorting to perfunctory HYPERBOLE.  The use of passion here is way overstating the effort.

Passion, it seems, is perceived as being a mere synonym of interest, but, passion is not a synonym for anything.  Using it as such says, “Look, everybody, I’m ignorant but Bertrand Russell used the word wrong decades ago, and he is a Great Learned one, so it must be a refined word, and, by using it indiscriminately myself, maybe you will mistake me for a Great Learned Refined Person.”  Maybe that sounds a bit mean-spirited, but, I just get riled up over this repeating-by-rote-because-it-sounds-refined thing.  And, it’s not my fault either, because PBS is the one that sensitized  me to it.

Passion is not a choice.  It is an imposed condition, a restless beast caged within, responding only to the command of its master, the mysterious Psyche.  We do not schedule its release, it is just suddenly there like a lightning-torched forest fire, and we succumb to its power, either in anguish or mindless exhilaration, so long as it rages.

How about it, writers and speakers?  Let’s get Passion off that street corner, pandering that which defines it to every trite expression that walks by and every product or service looking to really appear relevant.  Have you no sense of shame?  (I shouldn’t have asked that question; I know the answer.)

Next up:  I dunno.  It’s a new week, I’ll think up something.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 41 so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...