Larry King and other people who don’t make a lot of sense in public

It’s a little too easy to come down on people who mess up the language in some kind of open forum—on Facebook, for instance, or on a radio call-in show. “Regular folks” should be off limits. But people who make their living in the public square, people who should know better and who are practiced at this sort of thing? That’s different. Especially those who have the benefit of editors and staff.

These are just some examples of poor role models, or occasional slip-ups by folks who should be role models, that I’ve come across lately. Some of their mistakes are grammatical, some are in spelling, some are in pronunciation, some are just sloppy typing, and some are probably ignorance uncaught by any editor. Some mistakes are no doubt made by low-level people who happen to speak (or write) for supposedly high-minded outlets. Come on, leaders: Just as with your stars, when someone in a low pay grade addresses the world for the whole, invest in a second set of eyes.

• Larry King, in launching his new television talk show last year, was widely quoted as saying, “I would rather ask questions to people in positions of power instead of speaking on their behalf.” The show’s advertising is still trumpeting that line.

In all this time the powers that be couldn’t film the man saying something more comprehensible? A few wording changes would fix the grammar; the connection between interviewing people and speaking for them is harder to explain.

• “Please reduce down to no more than two capsules a day.” It figures that an ad for Garcinia Plus, a weight-loss drug (to lose redundant pounds), would use redundant verbiage. Or is “reduce” a play on words?

• “Did you make a person last year? A little tiny person that’s really bad at eating?” Cute, Turbo Tax. But a person of any size is a “who,” not a “that.”

• “They say you are what you eat. Well, at Perdue, we say you are what you eat eats.

The public-radio show “A Way With Words” has a blog that took on the (deliberately) missing word. “Never mind the implication that you are a chicken. Glide right past that,” its moderator wrote. “Perdue needs better copy editors.”

CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley must have missed the school lesson in spelling and/or pronunciation of “Arctic,” because he says it this way every time he mentions climate change or winter weather: “A massive Artic air mass ….”

• “More on Yahoo: Six Degree That Make Your Résumé Look Good.” Oops. Fingers type faster than brain thinks? Or does brain not have a degree?

• From the Washington Post, February 28: “BREAKING NEWS Economy grew slower that thought in 4Q.” Ditto. A pretty common mistake that passes spell check, unfortunately.

• “Montgomery College will open at 11AM, Tuesday March 4th due to anticipated icy road conditions. … If your class can meet for at least half of it’s scheduled time … your class will meet when the College opens at 11 a.m.” Sigh.

• “The challenge of rearchitecting ….” I heard this in an ad for VMware one morning and thought, “You’ve got to be kidding.” The Midwest has fertilizer ads, and Washington has government contracting ads. Are they really much different?

Not having memorized the rest of the sentence, I Googled that phrase. VMware talks about “virtualizing Tier 1 applications” and “the work that we’re architecting for future generations to come.” (Redundancy again.) This is the sort of thing that people in the know translate without a thought but outsiders hear as gibberish.

Meanwhile, “rearchitecting” led to a bunch of hits, mostly from IT companies. One man’s blog says this: “We don’t need to rearchitect the Internet. We need to rearchitect society.” Someone should consider rearchitecting his vocabulary.

• And the best public mistake of all lately:

Fox News, While Reporting About a Spelling Bee, Misspells Spelling Bee

“By Scott Kleinberg Chicago Tribune social media editor
“10:07 a.m. CDT, March 11, 2014

“Fox News, your word is bee.

“Can you use it in a sentence?

“We can, but the network apparently can’t, using ‘spelling be’ in place of spelling bee in a caption at the bottom of the screen during an airing of the show Fox & Friends.” ….

Copyright 2014 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.

To be or not to bee, that is the question.

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