Posted tagged ‘Larry King’

Public grammar and spelling don’ts from public players

August 4, 2016

DSC001221-2I’m not going to pick on Larry King. Not even going to pick on Scott Pelley (this time). And certainly not going to pick on everyday people who mess up grammar in everyday use.

In these occasional call-outs of bad syntax, spelling, and other offenses against the English language, I’ve smacked the typing hands or shut the pieholes of magazine editors, broadcasters, company PR departments, ad writers, politicians, nonprofit communications pros, news reporters, and more. All either know the language or have people who know the language—and all have a platform to inflict their errors on a wider public.

Regular people who mess up through ignorance, sloppiness, or laziness: Clear communication is important. Please learn from others’ mistakes. Here are some just since the holidays ….

The website tag on a Post story about Mount St. Mary’s University: “The small Catholic college in southern Maryland became embroiled in crisis this year when its previous president suggested that students struggling academically should be culled.” Nice try, Post website writer. How about “a small Catholic college in Maryland, just south of Pennsylvania.” Like seven miles south. Unless you mean St. Mary’s College of Maryland—which you don’t, because that’s a whole nuther institution. (Numerous comments chastised the paper for correcting the mistake without noting that it had done so.)

Tsk to the editors of Reader’s Digest, several of whom failed to fix this Barack Obama quote on its way into print: “But just in case there’s any lingering questions, tonight I’m prepared to go a step further.” That should be “there’re” or “there are.” The sentence was spoken, not written, and even if Reader’s Digest got the quote from a transcript, the editors (including the author) should have caught the mistake.

Write headlines in haste, repent at leisure. The editor of this Washington Post article should consider the word “him”: “McConnell focused on the ideas that unite he and Trump, and that separate he and Hillary Clinton.” (That comma doesn’t belong there, either.) And writer Jennifer Rubin should consider the word “her”: From an op-ed in the Washington Post, “In a general election, the Clintons will encounter voters who don’t really recall either she or Bill in their pre-President Obama days.”

If you still need help lowering your blood sugar, this is Jardiance.
If … you’re talking to your doctor about a biologic, this is Humira.
(The Northern Virginia hospital chain Inova had a similar line in a recent radio ad.)
These are logic failures. They imply an if-then relationship, but actually, the second phrase is true regardless of the first phrase. “This is Jardiance”—a newish medicine—whether you need help lowering your blood sugar or not. The marketing campaign is a clever way of suggesting that Jardiance will do well at lowering your blood sugar when in fact the sentence says no such thing; it simply introduces the product and lets you draw your own conclusion. (By the way, Humira, a biologic what?)

New York Post headline: “Hillary Using Bill to Shakedown High-Profile Donors.” Gimme space! A noun is not a verb.

“I am standing with the 31 Governors that are working to keep our nation safe,” tweeted then-presidential candidate Ben Carson. Last I heard, governors (lowercase) are people, too. So they take who, not that. 

“Tastes so good, you won’t believe it has 50 percent less calories.” Argh, Trop 50, you’ve already made an abomination of orange juice; now you’re butchering the English language. “Fewer,” please!

Washington Post headline: “Legendary Photographer Ansel Adams Visited a Japanese Internment Camp in 1943, Here’s What He Saw.” A run-on sentence in a headline is another example to back up the assertion that the Post has lost (most of) its copyeditors and general grammatical knowledge.

And saving the worst for last: “U.S. News and World Reports has recognized the Naval Academy …. Upon graduation, midshipmen earn bachelor of Science degree in a choice of 25 different subject majors and go on to serve at least five years of exciting and rewarding services as commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marin Corps.” Bad, bad “United States Public Affairs Office”—and shouldn’t that be “United States Naval Academy Public Affairs Office”? This news release has to be seen to believed, especially because the highlighted sentences should be boilerplate.

Copyright 2016 Ellen M. Ryan. All rights reserved.

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

March 21, 2014

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.