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Words, Feb. 26

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Open machinations, openly arrived at:

“Obama made several moves aimed at creating what he called ‘a new standard of openness' about the behind-the-scenes machinations of his White House and those before it.”

There's a scientific term I can't remember at the moment that means, roughly, that something a scientist is observing can change merely because it's being observed. That explanation is even rougher than I intended, but maybe you get the point.

Something like that would happen, I think, if you opened up your machinations: They'd cease to be machinations.

Machinations are “crafty schemes, plots, intrigues.” Those things are always done in private. The first definition of the noun plot is “a secret plan or scheme to accomplish some purpose, especially a hostile, unlawful or evil purpose.”

I'd rather the new president eschewed machinations entirely.

 

Correct placement of the “he saids” and “she saids” in newspaper articles is becoming rarer. I don't know why. “No one was struck when police said Barcroft fired the shot from a car parked in a lot that belongs to nearby Siwash University.” Why should anybody be struck, and what would they be struck by, because of something a policeman said? The police said should be at the beginning or the end of the sentence, or, if left where it is, set off by commas before police and after said.

“A 10-year-old girl in a Christmas parade died after Texas police say she jumped off a float and was run over by a trailer.” She died after the police said she jumped off a float? Of what? Embarrassment?

“Fillmore's job as a lighting designer at Gacy Auditorium kept him away from home for many hours at a time. … In the 48 hours before first respondents found his mother, the auditorium manager said Fillmore had worked 41 hours.” It was probably Fillmore's mother who was found by first responders, not the manager's. And the manager must speak awfully slowly if it took him 48 hours to say how long Fillmore had worked.

    

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