Setting the Record Straight

June 13, 2008

StraightRecord Schoolmarm Lessons: Part II

Mythical Iraq

   Many people appear to have settled on “eye-rack” as the pronunciation of Iraq. The dictionary allows only “ih-rack” or “ih-raq.” Nearly all the military folks quoted on the boob tube call it “eye-rack.”
   And an analyst from a well-respected think tank was quoted on television recently, 50 times or so, referring to the mythical place called “Eye-rack.”


TV Talk

   A Schoolmarm for television would require that:
   * The word “well” (as in “Well, Wolf…”) would not be the first word in every standup reporter’s report;
   * The word “incredible” would be banned (as in “That was an incredible story, Skippy”);
   * The word “that” would never be used to refer to a previous event being updated (as in “The suspect in that double murder in upstate New York.…”);
   * The word “target” as a verb would be thrown out and more accurate substitutes such as “designate,” “select,” “aim at,” “benefit,” “pick,” etc., would be used;
   * Television reporters would never be allowed to say “I can tell you” or “I should tell you,” because all the salient facts in a news event are things the reporters can or should tell their audience;
   * And now for the silliest little tic in speech: the double “is–” Nobody on television would be allowed to use the double “is.” You know it, don’t you? “The point is, is that…,” or, “The problem is, is that…,” or “The question is, is, does he really mean….”


Permit Us To
Convince You

     What happened to the word “persuade?”
     All one seems to hear these days is something such as, “He convinced him to do such-and-such.”
     Persuade means to cause someone to act in a certain manner. Notice the word “to” In this sentence construction; it designates an infinitive.
     Persuade is part of an infinitive, convince is not. One would persuade someone to believe the previous statement is true and that person would thus become convinced it is so.


Slam Dunk!!!!
As in WMDs?

     One danger of slurry thought and even slurry pronunciation is the loss of meaning. Jargon has its dangers.
     Consider, “It’s a slam dunk, Mr. President” and all that phrase helped get us into.


Why, Oh Why?

     Why do people have such trouble with common plurals?
     “Media” is the plural of “medium.” So, it’s “The media are struggling…”
     “Criteria” is the plural of “criterion.” So, it’s “My criteria for success are these…”
     “Data” is the plural of “datum.” So, it’s “The data are conclusive.”
     “Bacteria” is the plural of “bacterium.” So, it’s “The deadly bacteria were detected in food.”


And Learn This,

Por Favor

     People have such trouble with the hard and soft “h.”
     Words with the hard “h” take “a,” as in, “It is a historic occasion,” “He was a Hispanic scholar.” You wouldn’t say, “He gave AN hard time when we took AN history test,” would you?
     Words with the soft “h” take “an,” as in, “It is an honor.”
     “Herb” is a fuzzy example. Usually, the American usage is “an herb.” But “a herb” is being accepted as an alternative, with the dictionary notation, “Especially British.”




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