Sunday, May 15, 2016

Quick Grammar Nazi Note

I promise soon I will post a substantive essay, but for the moment I have to share two particularly silly grammatical errors I ran across the other day.

My son was listening to one of those would-be talking heads who populate Youtube, in this case an aspiring anchor woman presenting a report on the top ten military fiascoes, or something similar. As expected, some of them were arguable (eg Vietnam, the Second Gulf War, etc), but also predictable. As was most of the content. No WMDs, no gain to the US, the "senseless slaughter" of Vietnam, ignoring that the Viet Cong were all but eliminated after Tet and so on. I was a bit surprised to hear such a partisan presentation include the Bay of Pigs, but then again, if you are talking about military fiascoes that is a hard one to ignore.

So, overall, a rather tedious, forgettable presentation. And one to which I paid only intermittent attention as my son watched it. At least until the presenter got to the Bay of Pigs and began to mention the "amphibian invasion".

At first I thought it was just a slip of the tongue, as she clearly did not mean to imply giant mutant frogs and newts were sent against Castro, and the rest of her diction seemed professional enough that I gave her the benefit of the doubt, and assumed she knew the proper word. But, lo and behold, come her description of the Gallipoli campaign, once again the amphibian invasion was mentioned. As I know the campaign involved ANZAC -- made up of Aussies and Kiwis, not frogs and newts -- I had to conclude that, for all her airs, this woman simply did not know the difference between "amphibious" and "amphibian". Nor was it simply one additional mistake. From that point on, the report was littered with repeated mention of "amphibian" invasions.

On a positive note, at least one Youtube comment writer did know the difference and made mention of it. On a more negative note, everyone who helped her with this presentation, and everyone to whom she showed it before posting, as well as most Youtube viewers, didn't seem to know the difference. So, though there is a tiny bright side in the form of one sarcastic comment by someone who knows the difference, it is overwhelmed by the evidence that the majority of Youtube viewers and posters do not.

Then again, perhaps I am reading too much into this. There was one other error which suggests pretty strongly neither the presenter nor any of those who helped, has a terribly strong grasp of grammar. It is one of those errors that just screams "I am trying to sound ingenuous, you troglodytic Philippines!"* In this case, the explanation that the second Gulf War was fought "under the auspices that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."

Yes, you read that right.

It is one of those errors that screams "I read a lot, but don't always understand it all." It is close enough to the meaning that you might miss it if you are just breezing through paying little attention. Well, not really. It is actually pretty far from any sensible meaning. But it fits with the general sense of what "under the auspices" means, and so it might slip by if you don't listen to every word.

Then again, what does it say that someone trying to sound professional and educated can't tell the difference between auspices and pretext? Or maybe justification? (Depending on your slant on the overall story.) Or that not one Youtube comment writer -- a notoriously snarky lot -- made mention of this error, as one did about the giant frog invasions mentioned earlier?

That's it, not a lot more to say. It is not a common error -- at least as far as I know -- but it is an amusing one, and one where the context makes it seem a bit more surprising to me. So I felt the need to share. Should I run into others making either of these errors, I will be sure to update this post, or perhaps write another, as I would hate to see these two specific bits of nonsense become as commonplace as "try and" or "would of", or even "rediculous", "where you at" or "I could care less".

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* Yes, I intended "Philippines" in place of "philistines", and I know "ingenuous" means something completely different than it sounds. That is the joke. (Sad that I felt the need to write this, but I fear if I don't some dolt will write a "Gotcha you grammar Nazi!" comment about it.)

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Spell Check Update: It probably won't come as much of a surprise, but the Chrome spell check does not recognize "troglodytic". On the plus side, it has not yet been programmed to accept "rediculous", which I fear will eventually be accepted the way "indexes" was, despite there being a perfectly good plural ("indices") already available. It is just a matter of time before the "living language" crowd insists "rediculous" is "just as valid" as "ridiculous".

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