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Words June 30

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Wednesday’s not so bad. Why not overturn Monday instead? “In a 4-2 ruling, the Arkansas Court of Appeals overturned Wednesday a man’s drug conviction because the trial judge allowed two witnesses to testify before the jury that the defendant had been involved in two previous, unrelated crimes.” To suggest that the day of the week is the object of a transitive verb is clumsy writing. It distracts the reader. Word police arrested Thursday a reporter and a copy editor who misplaced the time element of a sentence. One way to avoid such awkwardness is to use on, as in The Arkansas Court of Appeals overturned on Wednesday … Some journalists seem to think that on is impermissible in this situation. They are misguided. Phrasemakers: Republicans are more skillful than Democrats at jiggering the language for political purposes. They created the terms partial-birth abortion and death tax, for example. Of the latter, Chuck Collins writes in the American Prospect: “In their new book about estate-tax politics, ‘Death by a Thousand Cuts,’ Yale professors Michael Graetz and Ian Shapiro describe how opponents of repeal [of the estate tax] were caught flat-footed as repeal forces got a 10-year head start framing the issue as an immoral ‘death tax.’ They describe how repeal advocates successfully characterized the estate tax as a tax on the ‘working rich,’ hosting family farmers and business owners to testify before Congress, even though many weren’t rich enough to ever owe any tax at all. “Graetz and Shapiro’s advice to opponents of repeal: Refocus the fight as a question about the immorality of unlimited and undeserved inheritances. ‘Call it the “Paris Hilton Benefit Act,” ’ suggested Graetz.” Not a bad idea. But compared to Tom DeLay and others who want to soak the poor to give to the rich, Paris Hilton seems almost wholesome. Ms. Interlocutor is indisposed: Phil Proctor writes in “Funny Times” that “according to a student paper, Stephen Foster wrote songs in two popular genres — ‘sentimental and menstrual.’ ”

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