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Words Apri 20

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“What are the most important criterion in selecting a cheerleader?” School spirit and how she looks in one of those little short skirts, I’d say. But what we’re really concerned with here is the misuse of criteria and criterion. Criteria is the plural, criterion the singular. Some people get them confused. The example above should read “What is the most important criterion … ” (forcing us to choose between the spirit and the skirt) or “What are the most important criteria …”

Further complicating the issue is criterium. According to Garner’s Dictionary of Modern American Usage, “Since about 1970, criterium has denoted ‘a bicycle race of a specified number of laps on a closed course over public roads closed to normal traffic.’ I seem to recall Little Rock hosting a criterium some years back. Most people didn’t know what a criterium was, but they knew what a street closing was. The criterium did not become an annual event.

“Rose said casting dispersions on the administration ‘in no way indicates cooperation on the part of the leadership of the union.’ ”

And he said it with asperity, I’ll wager.

But what do eels have to do with baseball?

Stephen M. Chapman III writes: “In an AP column by Rick Gano, [major league baseball commissioner] Bud Selig is quoted as saying, ‘It’s important for somebody who understands what I call the morays of culture of this sport as well as he does.’ ”

Rules and relegations:

“A year ago, the Golden Eagles guard saw plenty of playing time, but his inexperience and abilities regulated him to being a role player.”

What kindly fool am I?

“It was just something a single guy would say to someone who asked him a question like that. It was kindly off-the-wall, it was men talk.”

Some grammarians find the use of kind of as a substitute for “somewhat” or “rather” to be barely acceptable. They all find the use of “kindly” for “kind of” to be unacceptable, though it’s heard fairly commonly:

“I could see that my horse was moving kindly slowly.”

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