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Assertion v. insertion

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From a letter to the editor — "However, they did not accurately understand the truth and asserted 'contradictories' into their writings."

Michael Klossner writes: "I guess 'contradictories' means contradictions. In any case, you can assert something in your writings, or insert something into your writings, but you can't assert into."

You can indeed assert things in your writings. You can also allege and purport. All three are proper, but some people don't understand how to use them. We've remarked before on sentences like "He was charged with allegedly stealing a horse." No, he was not. Allegedly stealing a horse is not a crime. He was charged with stealing a horse. Whether he in fact stole it depends on the quality of his lawyer.

Usually, it's journalists who are guilty of this nervous over-qualification, but a prosecutor recently was caught at it, if he was quoted correctly in the daily paper:

"We are focused on finding fraudulent behavior wherever it occurs, and fraud occurs when someone purports to obtain money through a deception or concealment or misrepresentation, and that's at the heart of what has been charged in this case." If the law presumes that fraud occurs when someone purports to obtain money through deception, concealment or misrepresentation, then the law is, as Dickens' Mr. Bumble said, "a ass." Fraud is the actual obtaining of money through deception, etc.

A confidence man who admitted to his intended victim that he was trying to get the mark's money by deceiving, concealing and misrepresenting probably wouldn't be very successful.

The defendant in this particular case sounds like he might be guilty of that sort of bad judgment. In a listing of "important dates," the newspaper identified a number of large and questionable financial transactions occurring over a period of years. Toward the end of the list, the paper said that the defendant "earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville." Anybody getting a journalism degree in the current job market is likely lacking in shrewdness. Especially if he's planning to pay off some bankruptcies with a reporter's paycheck.

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