By Joe Diorio
FORT MYERS, FL, July 11, 2022 – Writing in the June 15 edition of The New York Times Victor Mather mused about the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League managing to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the third straight year. Mather said that “postseason play is a grueling gantlet to run.”
Some may question if Mather committed icing (Icing is a hockey penalty, please don’t ask me to explain it.) in his choice of words; should he have said “gauntlet” instead?
Welp, gantlet is the original spelling. It refers to a form of punishment where people armed with sticks are arranged in two lines and beat a person who must travel between them. Armed with sticks sure sounds like hockey, doesn’t it? Gauntlet is an alternative spelling and usually refers to someone having to endure punishment to reach a specific milestone.
If he was writing about the Tampa Bay Lightning specifically – which he eventually did, but not in that sentence – then he probably should have said gauntlet. Kudos to him for putting the right word in between the pipes. That’s another hockey term for scoring a goal.
Preregistration for a free pass
Hats off to all teachers. They have managed to navigate a pandemic, conducted hours of remote learning, and let us not forget they must run active shooter drills. So as a modest thank you Sea World in Orlando, Florida is offering free passes to teachers. A story on local TV news said teachers must “preregister” for the tickets.
Preregister is one of those words that can easily be misused. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a special registration period (as for returning students) prior to an official registration period.” Unless Sea World is asking everyone to register rather than simply buy tickets, the teachers being honored simply have to “register” for their free passes.
From the department of redundancy department
News flash: Heavy winds in Lee County, Florida knocked down a large tent where fireworks were sold. “The tent was completely destroyed,” said the TV reporter.
“Completely destroyed” is a term that Jeff Butera, author of the wonderful book Write Like You Talk: A guide to broadcast news writing calls “journalese,” or terms that get used so often they are accepted as the gospel of the spoken word. Something either is destroyed, or it isn’t. There is no need to modify it.
“Young journalists […] see and hear them being used and assume it’s the style they’re supposed to use. So they begin to adopt these non-conversational words and phrases, perpetuating the cycle,” Butera, a television news anchor in Southwest Florida, writes in his book.
His lament is echoed by a colleague in Philadelphia. Vince DeFruscio, a news editor for a Fox affiliate in the City of Brotherly Love, keeps a list of words and phrases he hopes news professionals will just stop using, like “a slew of laws,” “brazen crimes,” “iconic moment,” and “black smoke billowing.”
Butera’s book is a must read for anyone working in the broadcast news business, and for anyone who just wants to express themselves in clear and concise language.
And while I am doing book shout-outs, kudos to Wordshine Man: Tips for polishing words until they sparkle by Tom Madden. A veteran public relations professional, Madden’s book is 175 pages of solid advice for polishing, revising, and re-revising your writing until … well, until it sparkles.
Regionalism in language
Last month I wrote about John Fetterman, a candidate for the United States Senate from Pennsylvania, using the term “yinz” in one of his email messages. That prompted more than its share of responses.
“I’m from Pittsburgh,” one reader says. “There we are sometimes referred to as ‘Yinzers’.”
“In Cleveland they used to say ‘yoonz,’ as in ‘yoonz guys better watch it,” a second reader said.
Speaking of regionalism, the National Museum of Language has a terrific online exhibit on regional language.
And while I’m talking about the National Museum of Language, please mark your calendar for Saturday, August 13 at 2 p.m. That’s when I will deliver an online talk at the museum about writing, grammar, and how a love of words led to a book.
And … and, since I am talking about my book did I mention it received a Bronze medal in the FOREWARD Reviews 2021 book awards (Humor category)? Well, if I haven’t, then I have now.
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I’m running Zoom seminars for individuals or groups on improving one’s writing. Hit me up if you are interested in learning more.
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I was the guest on the July 1 edition of “Friday Morning Coffee,” a regular show on the Writer’s Bone podcast. Care to listen?
Let’s write carefully out there, people.
Joe Diorio is a writer living in Fort Myers, Florida. His book, A Few Words About Words, is available wherever fine books are sold.