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Words, Oct. 1



“Rockefeller started his criticism Tuesday — even before the bill was introduced — complaining that the bill would put too heavy of a tax burden on health benefits enjoyed by coal miners in his state.”

This is an example of what Garner's Dictionary of Modern American Usage calls “the intrusive of” — that is, an of placed where it doesn't idiomatically belong, as in Some would say this is not that big of a deal. Garner also addresses the absent of: I'd like a couple bananas for my monkeys, please.

“Using couple not as a noun but as an adjective is poor usage,” he says. “Instead of a couple days ago, say a couple of days ago.” I agree, but I fear our side is losing ground. Couple seems to appear more often without the of than with it these days.

A bear for punishment, Constance Reeder wants even further discussion of plural nouns, specifically police. She writes:

“In news reports, we commonly see ‘The Arkansas State Police is investigating.' It seems to me if we are to use the verb ‘is,' we should follow ‘police' by ‘department' or ‘force,' or something similar. ‘The police are …' will always sound right to me, whether grammatically right or wrong.”

Me too. Once again, we turn to Garner for support. He says that police “is generally construed as a plural in both American English and British English: The police aren't here yet.”


A land developer's ad for its condominiums blathers, “It's one thing to build a community; it's another to grow one.”

“What does this sentence mean?” John Wesley Hall asks. “What's the difference between build and grow? … Use of ‘grow' as a transitive verb is just silly.” Yes, except in certain phrases, such as “grow soybeans” or “grow a beard.” “Grow a community” and “grow your investment” should be avoided. President Bill Clinton spoke of “growing the economy.” It was wrong of him. But he also gave us eight years of peace and prosperity, so he earned some slack. This developer hasn't.

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