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Examiner
  • Jeff Fox: Words seem to be the problem

  • It’s not often that someone comes to me asking for a rant, but I am usually the man for the job.



    A co-worker (note the hyphen in accordance with the Associated Press Stylebook) said he was at the end of his rope. That’s a cliché, but in this supposedly enlightened and anything-goes age, the AP no longer bothers to discourage those.

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  • It’s not often that someone comes to me asking for a rant, but I am usually the man for the job.
    A co-worker (note the hyphen in accordance with the Associated Press Stylebook) said he was at the end of his rope. That’s a cliché, but in this supposedly enlightened and anything-goes age, the AP no longer bothers to discourage those.
    It’s not just the folks who can’t keep “ensure” and “insure” straight, he said. “Ensure” is about making sure something does or does not happen. “Insure” is usually financial, i.e., insurance. I would argue that’s valid distinction but that violations are minor misdemeanors.
    No, what really is getting to my dismayed friend is apostrophe abuse. You must rise and speak to this insanity and injustice, he said. Call the English-speaking world to its senses.
    Well, he’s right. You see it so much it hardly registers any more. “On sale this week: carrot’s and apricot’s.”
    Look, our beloved language – always evolving and driving traditionalists nuts – has a thousand and one funky rules, but plurals are pretty straightforward. You add an “s.” That’s it.
    OK, ox becomes oxen, mouse becomes mice, and the plural of moose is moose, but don’t quibble. That’s my job.
    For standard operations, you just add an “s,” or sometimes an “es.” But if Bob Smith invites you to over for a barbecue, you’re not going to see the Smith’s. It’s just the Smiths. Someone smarter than I pointed out that “The Simpsons” has been a top-rated show for many years, so why is this a problem?
    And that’s just in the realm of the beloved, pitiful, endangered written word. The spoken word, especially on TV, takes regular beatings.
    We have just come through our major annual festival of basketball, and two key players on one of the best teams are named Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III. None of this is the players’ fault, but some of the broadcasters found a train wreck in there anyway.
    Bob Smith is the point guard for State U. Smith passes the ball. Smith gets the rebound. Boy, that Bob Smith is a good player.
    It’s not hard. The games move quickly, and the broadcasters’ use of just surnames most of the time is expedient and necessary. But you still have to get the name right.
    Time after time, some of these guys insisted on “Hardaway Jr.” and “Robinson the Third” as last names, in effect changing the family name for all generations for the sake of a 19-year-old kid. Wonder what great-great-great grandma looking down from heaven thinks of all that.
    It does not help that some of these institutions of higher learning cannot grasp this basic rule of language use. They just go ahead and plaster “whatever Jr.” on the back of the jersey. That’s what you get for closing the English Department to find the money to remodel the suites in the arena.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Remodel,” by the way, is one of those words that somewhere along the line went from verb to seriously annoying noun, used that way by the very people in that business. Look, folks, we get it: You need your jargon – it gives you comfort – but when you’re paying good money for TV ads and wasting my day 30 seconds a time, spare those of us in the wider public your insider babbling.
     
    Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter @Jeff_Fox.

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