The beginning of the 21st Century may be looked back upon as the time when the English language finally met its demise. Grammar and spelling violations have become as common as shirtless photos of Vladimir Putin. It’s bad when punctuation rules are totally forgotten (“Let’s eat Grandpa” vs. “Let’s eat, Grandpa”). It’s not good when no one can figure out when to use – and not use – an apostrophe. It’s a problem when people confuse “lose” and “loose.” It’s unfortunate that many don’t realize the word “alot” doesn’t exist. It saddens me whenever I see what texting is doing to the once proud and mighty English language (ur hott).
But the saddest of all is when I see actual newspaper articles and headlines, written and edited by “professional” writers and editors, contain egregious errors that should never have been allowed to go to press.
Case in point: a local daily newspaper wrote about a potential property taking issue between two local government bodies. This article was the headline story, top of page one. And the headline screamed out, in bold large point type: “Imminent domain proposal rejected.”
Um… could the writer possibly have been referring to “eminent domain?” Imminent refers to something that will happen in a short period of time, as in, “The setting sun revealed that nightfall was imminent.” The word “eminent” refers to having standing above others in either position or quality – as in one government’s ability to take the property of another, or eminent domain. This is not a new legal concept or some strange new language construct that should be unknown to an experienced government writer or professional editor. Governments go through eminent domain proceedings all the time. Sometimes while reading local publications, one gets the constant feeling that the next grammatical error is imminent.
Case in point 2: a local semiweekly newspaper (on its official website, not sure about the print edition) actually used the non-word “syphoned” in both the headline and text of the story. That’s just crazy. The actual spelling of the word is “siphoned.” I can’t think of any possible reason why the spell-check sub-routines that exist in most modern word processing applications wouldn’t have caught and corrected this error… unless perhaps the program’s language setting was Olde Englishe.
I suppose that if we didn’t have these amazing errors, we wouldn’t have all these things to laugh about. So I suppose it’s not all bad. Consider some of these other actual quotes and headlines from non-local newspapers!
“Out of 40 women in the Senate, only two were female.”
“One in for kids drops out of high school.”
“Broncos will hand Tebow the reigns again.”
“Students cook and serve grandparents.”
“Body Search Reveals $4,000 in Crack.”
“Killer Sentenced to Die for Second Time in 10 Years.”
“LA Voters Approve Urban Renewal By Landslide.”
“Diana was alive hours before she died.”
“Prosecutor Releases Probe into Undersheriff.”
“County spelling bee postoned one more time.”
The downside to all this grammatical ignorance is that the English language really is a wonderful language, chock-full of multiple incredibly nuanced ways in which a writer can express one’s self. Just as important to newspaper writing as The AP Stylebook is Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. (They’re both valuable resources every writer should have.) I just hope that there are more than a few upcoming eminent young writers who will respect and cherish the English language, or its demise truly may be imminent.