Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No. And they can't see for miles, either

Point the first: If you're in a hurry to wheel out your pop-culture cliche, stop. Lie down. The urge will go away.

Point two: If you still find yourself unable to resist temptation -- try not to be deliberately obtuse about it, all right?

The nice folks who made the movie -- the current one, that is -- were kind enough to use the standard "all right," just as your stylebook tells you to do. (If you're very nice, it might even tell you whether The Who take a singular verb.) And as prescriptive rules go, that one's fine with me. I don't have a problem with enforcing a preferred spelling, and this happens to be one I like.

Might as well complain about the lede, while we're here:

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials say they have taken "all the necessary" steps to ensure the safety of hundreds of students gathering before dawn this week to catch one of the district's new shuttles.

There's nothing inherently wrong with partial or fragmentary quotes, but you can't expect them to behave the way you want without a little attention. Partial quotes work best as a unit, and what we have here is an entire noun phrase except for the pesky noun. Smaller units are often better than bigger ones. You could get away with "all the 'necessary' steps" or "all the 'necessary steps,'" or even "'all' the necessary steps," but not the one in the lede. I'm left wondering how the exchange went:

Q: Mr. Superintendent, what steps have you taken to ensure the safety of hundreds of students?
A: All the necessary!

Which gets us to another point: Don't use quotes to highlight the ordinary. If our notional superintendent had been asked to guarantee the safety of hundreds of students milling about in the dark and he'd replied "Unconditionally" or "abso-f***ing-lutely," maybe. But not "all the necessary."

And while you're there, be careful of the chorus effect. When you tell me "officials" said "all the necessary," you need to say how many officials and which one had the baritone part.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember Mr. Arbuthnot, Frank Sullivan's fictional Cliché Expert? "And which knot would you say the President would have to cut?" "The Gordian."

2:56 PM, August 24, 2010  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Yeah... that quote makes me wonder what noun he actually used. Or perhaps what other modifier he used after necessary.

3:03 PM, August 24, 2010  
Anonymous raYb said...

It could have been worse. It could have been rendered with the doubly stumbling "they have taken "all the necessary (steps to ensure the safety of hundreds of students)." While the other comments definitely are valid, at least the writer/editor didn't add the ending parenthetical phrase that seems to have become obligatory.

8:40 AM, August 25, 2010  
Anonymous Bob L. said...

The first movie to use the title spelled it "alright." Maybe the deck was written by an elderly copywriter with a long memory. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kids_Are_Alright_%28film%29

8:14 AM, August 29, 2010  

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