Thursday, July 10, 2014

Is a fly in my soup

Aside from the entertaining stuff that happens by accident, journalism has a habit of messing with language deliberately. Much of it doesn't last. We still have some relics of the save-every-space era (AP's preference for not doubling consonants in forms like "canceled," say, or the pathological fear of the Oxford comma), but Col. McCormick's simpliphied orthografy is a thing of history.*

And yet it moves. If you keep up with Drudge,** you might have noticed a couple of trends that represent Drudge's own idiosyncratic grammar. There's pronoun-dropping:

... and an apparent belief that you can dump the subject and verb of any subordinated clause:

 ... which is a translation of Ted Cruz's "I am absolutely convinced we are going to repeal every single word of Obamacare." (I mean, if "gimme eat" was grammatical for General Dreedle, it was probably grammatical for a lot of other people on Pianosa.)

Fox's hed above is new and different. "Has been a cover-up" is apparently short for a direct quote in the story: "In our view, there has been a cover-up that has been going on." We have a long tradition of clipping quotes to get to the meaty part, but we usually try to be at least a little grammatical about it -- not, in other words, chucking out half of the words we usually use to commit that sort of existential construction in English. ("Waiter? Is a fly in my soup.")

Now. That's "grammar." It has nothing to do with pragmatics, which looks at how parts of the headline go together to make meaning -- for instance, the (perfectly reasonable) assumption that "has been a cover-up" is in some way related to the judge's order. Rather than, say:

"In our view, there has been a cover-up that has been going on," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said.  

Fox inventing its own grammar is new, but Fox making up stuff in the service of the Party is kind of still the same old story. 

* So far, I can't confirm that the hed announcing the Trib's surrender was "Thru is Through and So is Tho." Will effort further.
** Hell, everybody has a hobby.

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Anonymous Bob L. said...

I'm pretty sure that "Gimme eat" was uttered by Major ________ de Coverley.

11:00 AM, July 13, 2014  

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