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Counting down



"People are surprised when they find that I did not go down with the count."

As we've noted before, choosing the right preposition can be troublesome. It's mostly determined not by formal rule, but by common usage. In this case, the common usage is "down for the count," a reference to the boxing ring. A downed fighter must get up before the referee counts to 10, or he's declared the loser ("counted out"). Using a different preposition than for can produce interesting images. Going down on the count might evoke synchronized swimming; going down to the count, a victim of Dracula's.

"Prep gridiron under way; Stuttgart romps CAC to kick off high school football season." Romp is an indirect verb. Stuttgart may have romped ("won easily"), but it didn't romp CAC. The Ricebirds may have stomped CAC, but I don't know the score.


A reader points out politely that while the Words columnist on Sept. 19 was prattling on about the right way to do possessives, this item appeared just a couple of pages away: "Poor peoples' stubborn refusal to eat losing scratch-off tickets." It should be people's.

Big Oops:

A more devastating communication came from Ali Welky, who quotes the Words columnist: "Some old-timers, who shall remain anonymous, learned in long-ago classrooms to add an apostrophe and an –s to form all possessives. These people would write 'The Bumperses's hospitality is famous,' despite all the hissiness."

Welky writes: "Can that really be? Unless perhaps some rogue teachers took matters into their own hands? For plural possessives, the apostrophe goes after the s (or es)."

Once again, my trusting nature has been abused. When that anonymous old geezer came into the newsroom yakking about what he'd learned in long-ago classrooms, I should have thrown him out instead of repeating his fictions.

I've known some rogue teachers, but none that authorized Bumperses's. Welky is correct.

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