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Archive for the ‘compound expressions’ Category

“This is unchartered territory.”

In compound expressions, eggcorns, thoughtless patterns on August 26, 2015 at 3:36 am

Gabe Sherman, National Affairs Editor, New York Magazine

 MSNBC 8/25 3:50-ish PM regarding Trump leading his followers away from Fox


No, he’s far from the only one to do this. And I doubt he’ll be the last one in the coming political circus, because it’s becoming a habit among more and more folks on the lookout for longer words to bolster their arguments. So what’s so wrong with it?

Mostly, it creates a dreadful mix of metaphors, robbing the second word of its significance. The original, uncharted territory, is clear and powerful. One pictures pilots of ships, reading the shoreline and the push and pull of currents, wondering about shallows that would be predictable if the cartographers had gotten there first. I never learned to read marine charts, but I love the look of them, with their underwater topographic curves. With the corruption, I’m afraid I lapse over into the Monty Python song about chartered accountants.

I generally prefer to address errors found in print, because you can be more sure someone had a chance to correct themselves. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen this one in writing. Maybe in the act of writing or typing two extra characters, the wrongness jumps out. I don’t understand, though, how it doesn’t register when the -r- in particular has to be pronounced. And today it was just a charter too far.

I’ve recently learned to call this particular kind of error an “eggcorn,” which gives it a category, but doesn’t make it grate any less.

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Throughout

In compound expressions, significant insignificancies, thoughtless patterns on February 8, 2013 at 5:13 pm

A couple of weeks ago, when I grumbled about compounds that get denied the chance to go out separately, I somehow forgot to include the very significant mess made when throughout is used but through is what is really meant. This morning I was reminded by Stephanie Abrams of The Weather Channel, doing her anticipatory live standup on tonight’s possible blizzard in New York City. She referred to the difficulty of predicting how conditions might develop “throughout the next 48 hours” of storm-watching. The operative words that clash with the intensity of throughout are anticipatorypossible, and all the conditionals that come with the business of prediction.

I wouldn’t have objected if Abrams had been content to keep viewers posted throughout the weather event, but she was clearly predicting that conditions would change across her reporting period. That is, through the period. Weather forecasting happens to be one of the fields in which this distinction is more than a matter of linguistic elegance: If there is to be heavy snow throughout the night, there will be more accumulation than if blizzard conditions obtain for only some hours through the night.

It looks as though Boston is in for that kind of night, which is why the more senior TWC correspondent is set up there, on the Commons, though I’m hardly surprised to hear Jim Cantore get carried away and intensify his language without good reason. I wish they’d all calm down and just tell us what’s going on, so we can figure out how to get through

Whatever … and a few other compounds

In compound expressions, thoughtless patterns on January 25, 2013 at 9:10 pm

No, it’s not another rant against the universal and no-longer-new retort. In fact, I’ve occasionally found it useful myself. And I didn’t actually hear the title character today, but it’s been too many days since I’ve posted, and one of the kinds of abuses I said I wouldn’t criticize nevertheless reminded me of a peeve: It’s whenever folks are afraid to let a word go out on its own. They reflexively make it take along its little sister, making a compound or phrase. It’s becoming more and more rare to hear what without its ever.

The related word that set me off was on tonight’s “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS: “Whenever his wife died, he gave it to …” No, it wasn’t about a serial widower, but a one-shot bereavement and bequeathing.

A word even more often roped into nonsense by a frequent, but not necessary, companion is whether. Yes, it needs or, but if it has another alternative or two, it doesn’t need not. So many otherwise intelligent speakers of English fall into the likes of ‘Whether or not he stays or goes.’ I even hear the not doubled up: ‘Whether or not she likes it or not.’

I’m not often criticized for terseness, but compounds are not necessarily forever. Let that what, where, and whether have their independence, or find new friends. Keep in mind what all the word parts mean, and save some of them for later.

Whatever …

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