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Oh no! Not in the lobby!


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"Police say they responded to the Motel 666 around 10 a.m. Friday to find John Doe shot in the lobby. The night manager of the motel tells police that the victim walked into the lobby and told him he had been shot."

John Wesley Hall writes, "I get it, but it's still not good." It's misleading, certainly. The first sentence leads one to believe that shots were fired in the lobby, but we find in the second sentence that there were none. Word order is important. In this case, it would have been better to say that police found Doe "in the lobby, shot." Or create a new sentence: "He had been shot." Rewriting is always permissible.

Any "shot in the" reference reminds me of a couple of things. Paul Harvey liked to tell the story of the woman who was "shot in the fracas. The bullet is in her yet." He told it more than once. So have I.

Then there was the old "Thin Man" movie in which a woman expresses surprise at seeing Nick Charles ambulatory after she'd read of his involvement in an unpleasant encounter. "You were shot twice in the tabloids," she says, and Nick replies heatedly, "They never got near my tabloids." Yes, I've told that one before too. We're all being encouraged to recycle, aren't we?

The sharp-eyed and widely-read John Hall offers another example of poor word order: "Obama Hosts Indiana Mom Who Lost Legs in Twister in Oval Office."

"The judge also criticized Zimmerman for 'manipulating the system for his own benefit.'

" 'Under any definition, the defendant has flaunted the system,' Lester wrote."

Not under any definition. Some authorities would allow flaunt to be used the way the judge did, but the ones worth listening to would say that the defendant here flouted the system. To flaunt is to show off boldly. ("She flaunted her new rattlesnake tattoo.") To flout is to show contempt for. ("The artist flouted the rules requiring clean needles.")


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