John Crowley (crowleycrow) wrote,
John Crowley

Grim slide

It's trivial -- so many other and far larger awful things lie around us on every side -- but it seems as though Americans are simply forgetting how to use English words.  I am very well aware that language changes, usage loosens,  shortcuts become formal speech:  but mostly what I experience is a loss both of exactness and richness.  The march of the preposition "of" to take the place of prepositions that are more appropriate and meaningful is one example (my Facebook page has noted many).  Now i see that the new bill passed allowing US citizens to sue the Saudi government for damages related to 9/11 is called "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act."  Justice against?  I had never seen this formulation and i don't understand how it can mean what it seems to want to mean.  I thought it must be a new [counterfeit] coining, but a quick search in Google Books show it used in many titles in many contexts, all recent.  
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Poetic justice against Cornyn et al. has been prompt.
Clever -- and tempting -- but no, I won't accept it. "The uprising against COrnynet al is poetic justice."


4 years ago

I gave up when "actionable" became a word meaning "something we can do."
"Revenge" is the word they're groping for, I suspect.
Yes, doubtless. Good one.

Rodger Cunningham

4 years ago

I pretty much gave up all hope when "impactful" entered the common vernacular.
This is how I feel whenever I grade papers. I am fighting a strong rear-guard action against "based off of." You put something on a base, not off a base (unless you're putting a tag on a base-runner), and thus the correct phrase is "based on."
"Off of" is bad enough all by itself. "I took the book off of the table." From the table, off the table Erg.

Rodger Cunningham

4 years ago


October 1 2016, 16:20:39 UTC 4 years ago

Sports announcer during a recent game - "Once again this young rookie has demonstrated an incredible degree of athleticism. Whether or not he'll be able to drive this team into the end zone for a touchdown depends overmuch on his untested leadership ability ahead of a opposing opposition that has averaged to hold when the going gets questionable. As I've often reiterated before, these green rookies often don't have the experience to back them up in these kinds of situations and they tend to rely on the sidelines when they're down in the trenches."
Yes, I think steepholm has it: for "justice," read "revenge."

My younger brother, David, was murdered in 1981, at the age of 23, and in the 1990s I was one of the founding members of the New Mexico chapter of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, an organization of people who have lost one of their immediate family to murder and who are against the death penalty. Ours can be an important voice in campaigns to abolish the death penalty, because one of the most reliable and convincing arguments put forth by those in favor of the death penalty is that execution of the murderer is a form of "justice" that can give to surviving family members a "closure" not otherwise available to them.
It soon became clear to me that "justice" was a euphemism for "revenge," and that only the carrying out of a sentence of death could be perceived as "justice." Any other legal outcome, including life in prison without parole, was by definition NOT justice. The unquestioned assumption is that the only definition of justice in general is an eye for an eye, a life for a life. In a word or two, revenge or vendetta.
It is also difficult for me to believe that those who think the killing of a killer will bring to the bereft any sort of "closure" -- another hopeful euphemism -- have themselves ever experienced grief, which, in my experience and the experience of all I have spoken to and read of, does not work that way. Each grief and each griever is different, and each grief follows its own rhythm and takes its own time. It is not my experience that grief ever ends, though it does change, in all sorts of ways over a life. As far as I know, "closure" is not a part of that process -- nor would I want it to be. It becomes a part of who one is; it is a form of love, not something to be ended or gotten rid of or closed. The heart does not work that way.

More to John's point: I have been an editor and copyeditor for nearly 40 years. Here's a letter I wrote in 1999 to "Copyediting," a trade journal, about a similar subject:

In the last five years or so I’ve noticed the expansion of the use of "on" in the copy submitted to me for editing, as well as in conversation and published journalism. With increasing frequency among writers and publications, "on" is taking the place of "about," "at," "for," "in," "of," and "with." It seems to me this development has paralleled the increasing popularity of the Internet, with its ubiquitous “click on” and related usages, but I could be wrong.

Here are some examples of what I mean. Except for the first, all have been culled from the last few months’ worth of raw copy submitted to me by "Stereophile" and "Stereophile Guide to Home Theater" magazines. In parentheses at the end of each example appears the word that, a few years back, would normally have been used in place of "on".

On "on"
The bombing on Belgrade will continue. (of)
  (from NPR’s Morning Edition, 4/23/99)

Most television manufacturers are totally out of touch on how their products are being used in the field. (with)

The crossover works properly only at speaker level in THX 5.1. On all other modes, it plays full-range at all times. (In)

The test tone was audible at the same volume level on both the Small and Large speaker settings. (at)

What prompted this whole odyssey was the fact that I blew my THX-certified center speaker on the 5600! (with)

It would be nice to see a review on TosLink and fiber-optic cables and how they differ from a good coax. (of)

I read with great interest the CES press releases on the new line of Toshiba DVD players, and have started to see some Web availability on the SD-9000 and advance ordering on the SD-2109. (about, of, for)

The placement of the seats will make a big difference on sound. (in)

Wes noticed some changes on the Circes’ soundstaging as he changed his listening height. (in)

We look forward to future reviews on many other Sonic Frontiers reference two-channel stereo tube products. (of)

He points out that there are possibilities for including full-resolution SACD replay on new-model CD consumer players fitted with DVD-ROM drives. (in)

Has anyone else noticed this trend?

Sorry for the length of this post!
Thank you for this post and for its length. About justice in the world I am in entire agreement with you. Even as a child I didn't understand why people thought that to seek the death of someone who has killed you love (or have merely heard about) was to seek justice.

As to "on" -- I've written on Facebook about "of" -- I swa an instance inte TLS today and now can't find it. If "on" is sucking up all the duties of those other pronoun we will be left of only one on making making our sentences.
Why do we need prepositions, anyway? Useless tiny words, changing verbal meanings, weakening strong verbs. I cry "Enough!" Take a position, no more prepositions! Oppose hidden prepositions--eschew apostrophes and write Crowleys book, TLS article.

Brought you Association Preposition Haters.
I LOVE preopositions and will shepherd them carefull in their tinly flock out of harm from the bad wolves of ignorance. Do you remember the post long ago where we tried to think up sentences containing the maximum number of preposition in an unbroken row? We reach seven or eight I remember, in acceptable English sentences.
I inference that you preference not to reference "reference" as a verb. That manifests as something relatable!
"Justice for the Victims of Sponsors of Terrorism" would work, though overlong. "Legal Action Against Sponsors of Terrorism" perhaps suggests the alternative of "illegal action". "Justice: Unfunding Sponsors of Terrorism" would satisfy Congress's need for a snappy acronym.

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