Friday, June 02, 2006

Eaxy fix to a redundant hed

Recently spotted:

Ohio lags
in pursuit
of ethanol

Easily fixed:

Ohio lags
in pursuit
of ethanol

Gets rid of that ugly short line, too.


At 6/4/06, 10:56 AM, Blogger aparker54 said...

Yet the adverbial "behind" isn't wrong, at least if the OED is to be believed (see "lag, v. 2": "Often with behind adv. or const. after, behind preps.; also with on"; "1530 PALSGR. 601/1, I lagge behynde my felowes, je trayne... Why lagge you ever behynde on this facion?"

Minimalists will prefer the simple "lag," but for some reason, I don't. Still, when headline space is a problem, I'd kill, with resignation, a lot of unnecessary words; see, for example, the OED on "mull, v. 4." (OK, OK, a headlinese joke.)

At 6/4/06, 11:16 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

"Lagged behind" is not always wrong. When there is an intervening adverb, it is preferred: "lagged far behind."

But its use as a naked verb does not require "behind." I suppose one could argue that this falls under one of Kilpatrick's "harmless redundancies" such as nape of the neck. But while I think nape probably needs neck because, well, people just don't use the naked nape all that much, lagged is perfectly understood without "behind." You can't lag in front.

As for "mull," I'm about to say give it up on this one. It seems fastidious to me to insist on "over" given the advancing common usage (aided and abetted by tight headline counts).

Yet we still do have our fastidiousness. I note a lengthy discussion in Copy Editor newsletter about whether "likely" can be used as a naked adverb (he likely will ....), and the sentiment still is no, it should be in a contruction such as "is likely to" or be modified by another adverb (he very likely will). Hmmmm.

And of course, there is "expect," which by rule is a transitive verb that requires an object. Thus "I expect he will ..." is wrong if we want to be precise/fastidious, and it should be "I expect him to ..."

Or put another way, when are we precise and when are we fastidious? Makes for great discussions.

Also makes teaching this stuff damn hard sometimes. There are times I envy my bretheren in the hard sciences, math, engineering or business where, in the base courses at least, an answer is right or wrong. Can you imagine what it would do to them if suddenly the argument was that the public says 2+2=5, so the usage has changed and that's what they should teach?

(On the flip side, it does invigorate me when I have to constantly confront and mull over these language issues, something I'm not sure a teacher of basic calculus or accounting, for instance, can say with regularity.)


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