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Opening Arguments

Changing the oil

Your curmudgeonly language nitpicker reporting for duty.

On the way home Friday afternoon, I heard a WOWO newscast begin a report of new officials being sworn in this way: "A new era in county government began today." Now, "new era" has always meant to me a significant change. If a majority of the new officials were left-handed Asian women instead of the usual white males, that would be a new era. If a majority espoused the imprisonment of all gum-chewers, that would be a new era. You don't call it a new era for the mere installation of officials resulting from the orderly conduction of an ordinary election. It would be a "new era" in my personal transportation if I switched from my Pontiac to a Sherman tank. It is not one every time I have the oil changed in my car.

Then, right after that, was a commercial for some place in town that was having a YES, which was defined as a "Year-End Sale," and which was described, at least three times, as "our Year-End YES Sale." That is the same as saying, "Our year-end, year-end, sale sale." That drives the purists among us insane, but we see it on the news side all the time, too. "The FWCS school system," for example, which is saying, "The Fort Wayne Community Schools school system," or "the START Treaty," which is saying, "The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty treaty," which, of course, came from "the SALT talks," or "Strategic Arms Limitation Talks talks."

Huh. Changing the oil in the car as a metaphor for elections. I like that.


Bob G.
Tue, 01/02/2007 - 9:11am

Now..if ONLY they'd come up with an appropriate metaphor for a LUBE JOB....

(I can hear the laughter already)



Steve Towsley
Tue, 01/02/2007 - 5:33pm

I think it would be fun and informative this year to have a thread on imprecise statements of words and phrases. The mistake that I notice lately is "flustrate," an incorrect combination of two actual words, "fluster" and "frustrate."

If we're not careful of course these new words wind up in Webster's whether we like it or not. Common phrases are equally abused all too often nowadays, apparently thanks to lowered academic standards, expectations, and the fact that people read less and watch TV more.

A long list could be assembled of mistaken quotations of these old words and phrases we all have noticed. Hint, hint...