Come on, man!

By Joe Diorio

I resist picking on grammatical errors committed by anyone in the news business. I worked in that field, and I know whatever is written – be it for print or broadcast – is often done at the eleventh hour, a term that is defined as something being done at the latest possible moment before it is too late. That’s a ripe environment for making mistakes.

Despite this reluctance, a few grammatical miscues by print and broadcast news outlets landed in my in-box and I’m feeling the need to share.

From NBC4 in Washington, D.C., on January 20: “The family of a D.C. teacher who died in police custody is suing Los Angeles police for $50 million, and placing bets at FedEx Field.” Welp, they probably had a good financial settlement. But I thought placing bets at National Football League venues, which is what FedEx Field is, was illegal. Oh, well.

From a daily briefing email by The (Fort Myers, Florida) News-Press: “Gov. Ron DeSantis pushing for permanent ban on COVID-19.” So, all it took was a ban?

From a local ABC affiliate on January 6, reporting that the pier in Naples, Florida was severely damaged during a hurricane. “Two-hundred feet of the pier are missing,” said the reporter covering the story. The use of the word “are” in this case rubbed my eardrums the wrong way. The pier is one thing, and it is a specific number of feet in length, just as I am a specific number of feet and inches in height. Sadly, because of severe back problems I am no longer as tall as I once was, but I don’t say, “an inch and a half of me are missing.” Similarly, because of the hurricane, one should say 200 feet of the pier IS missing. Fight me.

And just to show I am not the only editor whose hackles get up in a ruffle over language, @juliaproofreader on Twitter offered the following advice (admonition?) on January 23:

“Magazine fashion editors! Please don’t use the ghastly hackneyed phrases:

  • ‘Opt for’ – IRL, nobody ‘opts for’ anything.
  • ‘Team’ i.e. ‘teaming’ one item of clothing with another.
  • ‘Toasty’ – absolute worst offender, to describe the condition of keeping/making one warm. (imagine a puke emoji right here).

Cheese-it, the grammar police!

Last month’s note about forming the plural of the snack Cheez-Its by saying “Cheez-It Crackers” rather than “Cheez-Its,” prompted a question from one reader, “Does anyone say ‘Cheese it, the cops’ anymore? Or is it confined to old movies aired by TCM (Turner Classic Movies).”

Saying “Cheese it, the cops” was used as a clarion call by the bad guys to run away because the police are closing in on whatever nefarious activities they are up to. Saying “Cheese it” may be a corruption of “cease,” as in “stop what we’re doing,” but according to the exact etymology isn’t known. BTW, anyone notice I just used “nefarious,” “clarion call,” and “etymology” all in one paragraph? I’m loving this passage, people.

Drop me a note if you use the term or hear it used in everyday conversations.

Will somebody please fix that drip?

The discovery of government classified documents at Mar-A-Largo, Joe Biden’s house in Delaware, Mike Pence’s house in Indiana – has anyone checked Oprah’s house? Just asking. – brought about the ear-rattling term “drip-drip-drip” in news stories. It is news jargon at its worst, referring to bite-size pieces of news about a story becoming public very slowly. The use of the term was pervasive enough for a video skit on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on January 23.

I first encountered the term in the mid-1970s when the Presidential Administration of Richard M. Nixon was embroiled in a cover-up pertaining to a break in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. The question dripping away at the news then was, “what did the President know and when did he know it?” I’m just wondering if anyone has counted how many times the term “drip-drip-drip” has been used?

Let’s write carefully out there, people.

One thought on “Come on, man!

  1. I think I’ve caught most of the comments on the Cheese It cracker debate, but I have not seen anyone mention that it’s not just a grammar thing – it’s a trademark thing. I worked at HP for many years, and we always referred to our printers not as HP LaserJets but as HP LaserJet printers to protect the trademarked adjective. Examples of companies that failed to protect their trademarks include Xerox and Kleenex. Used correctly, “Xerox,” for example, is the adjective and should always be followed by the generic noun “copier.” I’m pretty sure it’s the same for Cheese It crackers.

    Love your newsletter!


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s