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Words March 31

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Better the conscious vote than the unconscious: “The case of Terry Schiavo is tragic; regardless of Congress’ action there will likely be only sadness and grief. The only option left to me as a member of Congress is to vote my conscious and pray for Terri and her family.” “Better known for their colorful antics, the Indianapolis Clowns also was a sound baseball team, according to MLB.com, the Web site for Major League Baseball. In 1952, it won the Negro American League championship with the help of a young slugger from Mobile, Ala., named Hank Aaron.” A kind of writing found only in newspaper offices, journalese always seeks the awkward and unnatural way of putting things. Lately, journalese has demanded that sports teams be treated as singular nouns, requiring a singular verb, even when the team’s proper name includes a plural. Thus we see “The St. Louis Cardinals is leading the league,” and “The Texas Longhorns is fleeing the field in tears, the Razorbacks in hot pursuit.” “Cardinals are leading” and “Longhorns are fleeing” are normal, and correct. The person writing about the Indianapolis Clowns tried to follow the dictates of journalese (“Clowns was” … “it won”), but he lapsed into orthodox patterns of communication when he used the plural pronoun “their” instead of “its.” Usually, bad writing comes easy. Sometimes, you have to concentrate. “The filly Sue’s Good News has a history of muscle cramps, but since the Pippin … she has been treated for poor blood circulation, a regiment that includes 12 human aspirin per day and a low-carbohydrate diet … ” Sometimes you need a regiment and sometimes you need a regimen. “A story headlined ‘Syria seeks our help to woo U.S.,’ in Saturday’s Weekend Australian misquoted National Party senator Sandy Macdonald. The quote stated, ‘Syria is a country that has been a bastard state for nearly forty years,’ but should have read, ‘Syria is a country that has been a Baathist state for nearly forty years.’ ” Baath is a political party.

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