Columns » Words

To Of and Of Not

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Elaine Scott spotted what she tactfully calls "an unfortunate juxtaposition" in the May 23 Arkansas Times. Sitting right next to the "Words" column was an ad that said, "Thank you to all of our sponsors, audiences and volunteers for an amazing 7th Annual LRFF! We couldn't of done it without you!"

Unfortunate indeed. I'm reminded of a famous quote — well, semi-famous — attributed to Joe Jacobs, once a prominent figure in the sporting world: "I should of stood in bed." According to Bartlett's, this was "After leaving a sickbed to attend the World Series in Detroit [October 1935] and betting on the loser."

An article (not in the Times) by a woman whose husband had enrolled in college at a comparatively advanced age caught Bonnie Luck's eye. "I'm going to miss not having my husband there every day, but I'm really proud of him," the item said. Ms. Luck asks "What does this sentence mean?" Good question. Had the writer posed it to herself, she might have realized that the "not" doesn't belong.

"Rich in natural beauty, Skrova boasted the highest percentage of millionaires in all Norway as recently as 1980, thanks to its thriving factories and whaling station. All but one factory has since closed." That was the caption under a photograph in National Geographic. The caption writer was misled by "one." One is what's still open. More than one are closed. The verb should be plural — have not has. A little later, in the body of the article, the Geographic got it right: "All but one of Skrova's fish factories have closed, the most recent in 2000."

"The founder of Defense Distributed apparently describes himself as a crypto-anarchist." Michael Klossner writes: " 'Crypto-' means 'secret.' If you describe yourself as something, it's not a secret."

Years ago, Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley were on television together discussing politics and Vidal called Buckley a "crypto-Nazi." Buckley called Vidal a "queer" and threatened to punch him if Vidal ever called Buckley a Nazi again, crypto- or otherwise. Their feud continued until death.

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