Here are the corrections and explanations for this week’s entries.
MONDAY PUN DAY
These are really silly but they are still funny.
“No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.”
“I used to be a shoe salesman, ‘til they gave me the boot.”
“A cat ate some cheese and waited for a mouse with baited breath.”
Identify, explain and fix the problems in the examples below.
“Take Johnna Horn. She stopped shopping at Target for two months after its breach was disclosed. Yet when she heard the news about Home Depot, she wasn’t alarmed.”
“Take!” Take Johnna where? This is a really inane cliché that has no literary value. Change it to almost anything except “take”.
“Johnna Horn stopped shopping at Target for two months after its breach was disclosed. Yet when she heard the news about Home Depot, she wasn’t alarmed.”
“He sees a structural problem, with our downtown located, not at the centre, but on the fringe of a greater Windsor expanding further and further away from the core.”
“Further” does not refer to distance. Americans think it does but they are wrong.
Take out the comma after “problem”; it corrupts the meaning of the sentence.
“He sees a structural problem with our downtown located, not at the centre, but on the fringe of a greater Windsor expanding farther and farther away from the core.”
CORRECT PLURAL USAGE
I am leaving this in place because it is of such high grammatical value. Read it again.
In long, complicated sentences, people often lose track of whether the subject is singular or plural and use the wrong sort of verb. “The ultimate effect of all of these phone calls to the detectives were to make them suspicious of the callers” is an error because “effect,” which is singular, is the subject. If you are uncertain about whether to go with singular or plural, condense the sentence down to its skeleton: “The effect . . . was to make them suspicious.”
Another situation that creates confusion is the use of interjections like “along with,” “as well as,” and “together with,” where they are often treated improperly as if they meant simply “and.” “Aunt Hilda, as well as her pet dachshund, is coming to the party” (not “are coming”).
A compound subject requires a plural verb even if the words which make it up are themselves singular in form: “widespread mold and mildew damage [not damages] the resale value of your house.”
If the title of a work is in the plural, you still use a singular verb because it is just one work: “My copy of Great Expectations has the original illustrations in it.” That much seems obvious, but it might not seem quite so obvious that Plutarch’s Lives is a single work, or that Shakespeare’s Sonnets is. Of course if you are not referring to the book as a whole but to the individual poems they are “Shakespeare’s sonnets,” and take a plural verb.
Amounts of money and periods of time are usually considered singular: ten dollars is not a lot of money to lend someone, and five years is a long time to wait to be repaid.
(Thank you to Paul Bryan’s, “Common Errors in English Usage”)
This is blog entry # 2,000.
The first blog entry was posted April 6, 2007 and, aside from some periodic vacation time, I have posted almost every weekday since that time. I am proud of the longevity of my crusade. The rub is that there is no end in sight.
Well, guess what, writers and television and radio personalities and politicians who abuse the English language on a regular basis! I am not going away and I will get you!
As I used to say when I taught: “Keep your head up in the hallway!”
“Persuade” is a verb meaning to win approval or support for something.
A person is persuaded by appeals made to the will, moral sense, or emotions.
“Her honesty was enough to persuade the jurors that she was telling the truth about the attack on her children.”
“Convince” is a verb meaning to assure or come to know with confidence.
A person is convinced by evidence or argument made to the intellect.
“The archeological evidence presented is more than enough to convince me that evolution is absolutely true.”
A QUESTION OF DICTION
“Hotel room drug dealers busted”
It may be a cliché but is it acceptable?
“Busted” has become part of our police culture and is generally accepted as meaning to break up or go to pieces. But that is not its original meaning which makes it a noun referring to a sculpture of the head and shoulders of a person.
“Hotel room drug dealers arrested,” would probably be a better choice of words but would not sound quite as tough as some people want.
A QUESTION OF CONSISTENCY
“John Yousif Yakoop, 34, of Windsor, is charged with possession of Fentanyl for trafficking, possession of cocaine for trafficking, possession of oxycodone for trafficking and fail to comply with conditions of a judicial release.”
Read it and “fail to comply” does not fit the natural flow or tone of the sentence. Instead of just quoting a term for a legal charge, it should be changed to “failing to comply. This is probably done because writers want their readers to “be in the minute”. I don’t agree with that style.
“John Yousif Yakoop, 34, of Windsor, is charged with possession of Fentanyl for trafficking, possession of cocaine for trafficking, possession of oxycodone for trafficking and failing to comply with conditions of a judicial release.”
A QUESTION OF REPEATING ONESELF
Check the following, identify the error and then correct it. (If nothing else, he is consistent.)
“Windsor police arrested a man Tuesday after he called a woman to bring him a mop to clean his flooded apartment, then allegedly busted her arm.”
“Broke her arm” would be a better choice of words and far less trite sounding.
“Windsor police arrested a man Tuesday after he called a woman to bring him a mop to clean his flooded apartment, then allegedly broke her arm.”
A QUESTION OF CONSTRUCTION
Read the examples below; determine the error in each; correct the error; and give reasons to support your corrections.
“Just boys being boys.”
This is not a complete thought.
“It is just considered as boys being boys.”
“Because don’t forget that, at the same time we are teaching our young boys these messages, we have trained our girls to apologize for our boys.”
Using “because” makes this whole thing a subordinate clause, which is an incomplete thought or, on short, a writing error.
“Don’t forget that, at the same time we are teaching our young boys these messages, we have trained our girls to apologize for our boys.”
MY GRAMMAR TEACHING PHILOSOPHY
“Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an American poet and educator who lived from 1807 to 1882, wrote this.
THIS WEEK’S WORDS
“Precursor” (n.) refers to a forerunner, a harbinger a herald or a person who goes before with news.
“The mother’s beaming smile was a clear precursor of the news that her daughter was finally pregnant.”
“Recrimination” (n.) refers to a bitter accusation, severe blame or criticism. It is usually used in the plural.
“He had nothing in his mind but vicious accusations and vowed to exact bitter recriminations on the murderer of his daughter.”
“Erudition” (n.) refers to profound knowledge, scholarship or learnedness.
Synonyms for “erudition” are strong education, cognition or scholarliness.
An antonym for “erudition” is ignorance,
“Her erudition was wonderfully evident in the elevated tone of her diction and in her ability to communicate with her audience.”
“Tenacity” (n.) refers to doggedness, perseverance or persistence.
“The child clung to her doll with the tenacity of a bull terrier wrestling with its handler.”