A man who is probably not a Rhodes scholar sticks up a bank in Alaska after first giving the teller his name, account number and ID with photo. An inept thief in Massachusetts stuffs 75 bottles of body lotion into his pants and tries to walk out of a Bath and Body Works shop without anyone noticing. A lifer serving time in a Wisconsin prison sues the state for allegedly violating his free speech and due-process rights because it won’t allow him to play Dungeons and Dragons behind bars.
As shaky as the health and quality of life of citizens in some of Maine’s 16 counties might be in the opinion of researchers whose work was cited in a recent national report, we surely have more going our way than the aforementioned losers do — the giant highway sinkhole that threatens to swallow a part of Rockland notwithstanding.
We are, for example, still free to ward off cabin fever by carping about the little things that annoy us, as several readers did after a recent column on misuse of the language. From Hancock County — second best-off jurisdiction in our intramural health sweepstakes — a reader confided that she, too, is driven nuts on occasion by the misplaced modifier.
In her snail mail letter, she enclosed a slick fundraising brochure from the National World War II Museum in Washington, D.C., as an example of the genre. The flier contained this clunker: “Founded by the late historian Stephen Ambrose, a number of prominent Americans have consistently supported the museum’s expansion.”
I’m not sure just how many prominent Americans the late, great, workingman’s historian and author Ambrose may have founded. But I’m guessing that the number is somewhere around zero.
The affliction abounds. Listen carefully to most any newscast, including those of the national networks. If you don’t hear at least one mangled sentence the grammatical equivalent of “Walking down the street, the house was on the left,” feel free to feel surprised.
Another journalistic practice that aggravates, be it in print or via broadcast, was cited in an e-mail from a reader in Penobscot County, which is sort of middle of the pack, health-wise, in the national report cited above. The man’s beef concerning reporters’ use of the word “after” in places it doesn’t belong is one that I’ve long harbored, as well.
“Two injured after shooting,” a newspaper headline announces. “Smith was injured after his pickup truck was wrecked in a nine-vehicle pileup,” the television reporter informs her viewers.
I’m thinking what a rotten break for the people involved. One survives a shooting in some squalid honky-tonk and the other a black-ice demolition derby out on the interstate only to inexplicably get seriously hurt while just standing around contemplating the lousy turn their lives have taken. Bummer.
To the readers’ contributions regarding things that irk, I add one of my own. It has to do with the recently popular term “Mirandize,” a word that television’s talking heads can’t seem to say enough in discussing terrorism in general and the case of the young Nigerian terrorist who attempted to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in particular.
There may be a buzzword that grates more, but I can’t think of one at the moment. The term relates to the constitutional rights of a person who has been charged with a crime under our judicial system to remain silent and to have an attorney present at any subsequent police interrogation.
Once upon a time, before we became addicted to turning proper nouns into verbs by adding the suffix “ize,” we would have said that so-and-so had or had not been read his Miranda rights
The one-word condensation of that simple phrase may be a way for the talking heads to get a word in edgewise in the contentious television shout shows where host and participants all talk at the same time so that no one in the audience is the wiser as to what may have been said.
But since the word derives from “Miranda,” as in Ernesto Miranda, a poor Mexican immigrant who was convicted of rape and kidnapping in Arizona in 1963 and sentenced to prison for 20 to 30 years on each count — without having been allowed access to a lawyer while police interrogated him — shouldn’t the word be “Miranda-ized,” rather than “Mirandized”? The man’s name, after all, was not Ernesto Mirand.
Where are the buzzword police when you need them?
BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. Readers may reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.