Friday, December 30, 2005

Hypercorrect follies

Hypercorrection is the fine art of making a mistake by trying too hard not to make one -- traditionally, something like choosing "whom" over "who" because "whom" seems to have so much more grammar in it. Two examples from a Major Southeastern Daily today point up the dangers of choosing the ornate form when the simpler one is correct:

A 12-year-old boy with a rifle, encouraged by his grandfather, shot and killed a hunter whom they thought was a deer, officials said.

Turn the relative clause, "whom they thought was a deer," into a complete sentence and you'll see the problem: "They thought him was a deer." No, them didn't. Make it "a hunter who they thought was a deer."

If the tree were at fault, it would be the second such case in a week in Charlotte.

Use the subjunctive for conditions contrary to fact: "If I were pope, I would excommunicate anyone who writes a 'Christmas came early' hed" (the storied Gus Harwell makes his classes hum "If I Were a Rich Man"). In this case, as long as we're buying into the whole malignant-anthropomorphic-Christmas-tree thing, stick with the indicative: "If the tree was at fault ..."

Figure the next verb out for yourselves.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to have a coffee mug I called my copy editor's mug. There was a cartoon turkey on it, and it read "This is my mug. Do not take it or steal it. I don't care whom you are." Man, I miss that mug.

11:16 PM, December 30, 2005  
Blogger fev said...

Somebody ought to reissue that one and flog it at the ACES convention. That, and maybe we can get Ray to rerun the TEAM IS AN IT T-shirts.

The coffee mug I miss had a 3-dollar bill with Nixon's picture on it. My mom (lifelong Republican) gave it to me when I went off to college.

11:14 AM, December 31, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my favorite mug:

1:59 AM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

I keep waiting for that guy to get his own talk show on Fox. He'd be great.

6:17 PM, January 04, 2006  
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