Turn that thing off
My learned colleague Bill Walsh appears to be an even-tempered and amiable fellow, talking and writing reasonably about English usage. His workshops at the American Copy Editors Society’s conferences are genial and low-key. I can’t say that I’ve ever heard him raise his voice, certainly not in anger.
But when someone couples an with a lightly stressed h — an historic, for example — it gets up his nose, as the Brits say. You can see that from his comments on “Don’t get in an huff”:
Broadcasters tend to say "an" and then a very, very strongly aitchy "historic." I would say "an HHHHHHHHHistoric" qualifies as wrong, even if you look the other way at "an istoric" or "an (h)istoric."
I guess I also cry foul at those who say HHistoric this and HHistoric that but then say istoric when and only when an indefinite article is called for, FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE of saying "an." Putting the cart before the orse, you might say.
I suggested, mildly, as is my custom, that it’s “not even among the top hundred idiotic things broadcasters do or the top hundred irritating affectations,” to which Mr. Walsh replied, “Bring on that top-100 list!” So it’s a challenge.
The problem is that I stopped watching local broadcast news some time back — you know how I get — and therefore can only make a start on such a list. I have to depend on the rest of you to flesh it out. For starters:
Using whom when the pronoun is the subject of a clause: The car was driven by a young man whom police said fled the scene.
disinterested for uninterested or apathetic
enormity for “some big thing”
ironically for coincidentally
Sounding the t in often
Pronouncing comptroller as comp-troller rather than con-troller
There should be a special category for the finicky hyper-pronunciations on classical music stations — Bach uttered as if the announcer suffered from catarrh, or a Spanish name pronounced as if the studio were in the foothills of Andaluthia.
In cop-speak, people are ejected from cars, not thrown.
You can be sure that if there’s rain at a parade, someone will say that it didn’t dampen the spirits of the participants.
rain event for rain
white stuff for snow
JUST PLAIN DUMB
One Baltimore station broadcast a series on testicular cancer for which the title was “Guarding the Family Jewels,” apparently unaware that family jewels for testicles is (a) vulgar and (b) badly dated slang. Are we in 1955?