Thursday, December 11, 2008

Active aggressive: Pending spree

Today's puzzler: How did this one come about?

At the time of the wreck, she was pending trial on September charges of speeding and driving while her license was revoked.

Pending further review, I'm inclined to classify this as a special case of overcorrecting. The writer's trying to turn something that looks passive ("trial was pending for her") into something that looks active ("she was pending trial"). Trouble is, this "pending" isn't a form of the verb "pend," which your 4th New World lists as intransitive anyway,* so it doesn't have verbacious characteristics like voice. We need the adjective "pending" -- variously, "not decided," "about to happen," or "awaiting decision or settlement" -- with a linking verb if we want to emphasize the trial or the charges. For the person, we could simply go with "awaiting" trial.

You're expecting a lot out of your readers if you want them to be interested in a hed like "Anna Lisa Smith was ejected in one-car wreck"; she's much more sensibly identified on the inside page as "track owner's daughter." And it is to be hoped that there's some other source for her alleged ambition to be a drag racer than a single Web site. But the real fun here seems to be another case of active-aggressive syndrome. Down is to be calmed out there in the trenches, OK?

* You can find a couple of transitive "pend" uses in the OED. Under the most recent, it looks as if a trial could be "pended," but not by the defendant and not in the sense we have here.



Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

My first thought was, what's wrong with that? Then I read the analysis and thought, hmmm. But I know I've heard that. Lots.

So I Googled it. And it's everywhere. I think the writer could presume people wouldn't be at all confused.

7:01 PM, December 11, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:35 PM, December 11, 2008  
Blogger fev said...

No, I agree there's no chance of confusion -- at least, I didn't have any question about what it meant. What I'd like to figure out is when and where that transitive 'pend' came into use -- Lexis isn't letting me search for a string that includes 'was' (tnx, Lexis), but the only ones I saw at a nonrandom glance in the 70s were the adjectival 'trial was pending' things.

So I dunno if the writer is turning something that looks verby into a verb or using a familiar meaning that's still not formally in the books. I'll see what can be found. Maybe Jan knows...

8:59 AM, December 12, 2008  

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