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A Sportswriter Cries “Foul!”
by Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist
The hyphens are coming, and beware—they’re taking over. Commas, not so much. Commas have gone extinct. These are a couple of my pet peeves when
it comes to grammatical violations in print. More on that later. In the meantime:
Somehow, a guy named Al showed up in all right, and it’s now “alright.” Nope. Wrong. And I have no time for
“anytime.” It has to be two words: any time. Once you’ve written “any hour” or “any minute,” how can you
go with “anytime”?
How about the second time in as many days? As many days as what? Should be in two days.
Going forward. It’s not bad grammar, it just has no place. What, as opposed to going backward? Eliminate going forward from every usage, in print or
conversation, and it won’t be missed.
Then there’s the sentence that takes forever to reach the point—and by the time you get there, you’re no longer interested:
“The occasion of the Wallace brothers burning down the Gazebo with the very last match at their disposal and then pretending it never happened at the
after-party at Bob’s house takes a special place in history.” Taken literally, what takes a special place in history?
As for hyphens, here are a few really dreadful ones I’ve seen in responsible newspapers lately:
The tension-level was high
He’s the odd-man-out
Dare-we-say he was confused?
That’s the elephant-in-the-room
The best record of all-time
Commas? Somehow, they have been deemed unnecessary. More actual examples:
Thanks for trying guys (maybe you should go back to gals)
Don’t go Tiger (go ballistic, or go east)
Say It Ain’t So Spain (it ain’t so hot, either)
“Meaning what ace?” (actually saw this in a David Milch script)
“This isn’t a funeral you know.” (True, but I think my friend Pete recognizes it.)
Then there’s the misplaced apostrophe, so common on the street:
“She fly’s with her own wing’s”
Long ago, in the press box of the old Comiskey Park in Chicago, there was a sign on the women’s bathroom that said “Ladie’s.” It
was a charming sign, in the form of a baseball—seams and all—but that apostrophe drove me nuts. Year after year, covering the Oakland
A’s, I wasn’t able to walk past that thing without seething.
Then in 1990 the park closed down. Visitors knew they’d be making their last visit to the storied old yard. On my last night there, about a month
before the season ended, I dawdled and stalled until I was the last person in the press box. And I was prepared. I whipped out a bottle of Wite-Out and
made that apostrophe vanish.
Postcript: Wayne Hagin, a broadcaster at the time (can’t remember what team), knew about my mission. One night near the very end of the season, he
yanked that sign off the bathroom wall and stashed it in his briefcase.
It now resides in the guest room of my house. Ladies welcome.
Bruce Jenkins’s new book, Shop Around: Growing Up With Motown in a Sinatra Household, is available in bookstores and on Amazon.com. Jenkins
is the son of Gordon Jenkins, who worked with all the greats of the pre-Elvis era (including Judy Garland, Nat “King” Cole, and Sinatra). The
Miracles’ “Shop Around,” the first big hit of the Motown empire, turned Bruce’s life around at the age of 12. Shop Around
is a book for soul-music lovers and anyone whose parents were on entirely different musical wavelengths.
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