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Words, Sept. 10

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“If going to a Travs game is a late-summer idyll, seeing the Hogs open its season at War Memorial is a debauched monument to a life-altering obsession”:

Brian Snow writes, “Ever since I studied grammar, I wondered about the best way to refer to a sports team. I often say ‘The Cardinals are doing well,' but realize I'm not talking about the players but the team. But what if I say ‘The Cardinals is a baseball team in St. Louis'? Does the mere word ‘team' change the verb?”

We've wooled this around before, but with football season just getting started, it won't hurt to take it up again. Not much, anyway.

Arguments are easy to find. I follow the rule enunciated by William Safire, among others, that pluralized names always take plural verbs (and pronouns). Thus, “Seeing the Hogs open their season …” “The Cardinals are a baseball team in St. Louis.”

“The Razorbacks is taking the field” will never sound natural to me. My guess is that the use of plural verbs with pluralized names predominates. Some people take the plural verb even further. A website devoted to grammar says, “The names of sports teams are treated as plurals, regardless of the form of that name. We would write that ‘The Yankees have signed a new third baseman' and ‘The Yankees are a great organization' (even if we're Red Sox fans) and that ‘For two years in a row, the Utah Jazz have attempted to draft a big man.' ”

As for Jazz have, I'm not sure and don't much care. Though most team names are pluralized, we've begun to see more of what Fowler called “addled names,” like Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. To determine whether the Utah Jazz have or has signed a big man requires more thought than I'm willing to give. If the Crimson Tide wants/want me to pay attention, it/they will have to find a more sensible handle.

 

“Rural Americans, who largely are suspect of the public option in health care, would, at least, be more amenable to the idea of a health-care co-op.” They're suspicious, not suspect.

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