Columns » Words

Words, Oct. 11

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A couple of examples of newspaper writers being unable to lay their hands on the right word:

“The litigation continued for 21 months. Jesse and Frank, regaled in legend as so above the law, nevertheless retained an attorney.”

To regale is “to entertain.” Clearly, it doesn't fit here. Maybe the writer was thinking of renowned.

“When the 1954-55 school year began without any black students enrolled in traditionally white Little Rock schools, the state NAACP's legal redress committee, headed by Pine Bluff attorney Wiley Branton, broached the school board.” To broach is “to mention or suggest for the first time.” You broach something to the school board, you don't broach the school board itself. Approached the school board, maybe? Braced the school board?

n “[S]oon after taking office, incoming governor Mike Beebe had to allocate $335,000 from his operating fund to buy new hard drives and computers to replace those crushed by his successor.”

George Gatliff writes, “Is the columnist predicting Mike Huckabee will be coming back as governor?” Let's hope not.

“Fleener referenced 2002 memorandums put in place by the Bush administration that said that al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners of war are not subject to the protections outlined in the Geneva Convention … ”

Simon Croquette writes: “I often see referenced in place of referred to nowadays. Is this usage kosher?” Not with me or my sidekick, Randy House, and not with Garner's Dictionary of Modern American Usage, either. Garner says that “reference, as a verb meaning ‘to provide references,' is defensible. E.g.: ‘The cross-referenced chapter contains two subsections.' The term has become a vogue word, however, as a synonym for refer to — e.g., ‘You can add notes to your items, import or simply reference [read refer to or cite] external files.' ”

Vogue word is Garner's name for those faddish, trendy words, like proactive and scenario, that become so popular they're used in contexts in which they serve little purpose. “As their popularity increases, their value diminishes,” Garner says. Issue is a real problem with me.

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