The Rev. William D. Gravatt of the Marshall (Va.) Baptist Church lifted a questioning eyebrow as he read a recent news story in The Washington Post. The story was about Harry T. Alexander, the former judge who is now in the news again because he is one of the defense lawyers in the Hanafi Muslim murder-kidnap trial.
In telling about all the honors Alexander has won, our story inadvertently said that on Alexander's office will there are more than 25 "plagues" and citations.
Oh dear, "Plaque" is a word I hesitate to use, for precisely this reason. "Bridge" is another that gives me pause.It has a tendency to appear in print as "bride" sometimes with embarrassing consequences.
Gene Babb of Winchester made no comment about an advertisement for a motion picture. He just clipped it out and circled the word "it's" in the phrase, "A war epic at the head of it's class." A war epic at the head of it's class." The urge to put a possessive apostrophe in "its" is widespread.
Amos B. Potts Jr. of Kensington sent me a clipping that said, "If a person goes to traffic school, he doesn't get any points against their driver's license, no fine is paid, and the prosecutor. upon graduating from traffic school, will drop his charges." The less said about that one, the better.
An anonymous reader sent me a tear sheet that contained two editorials from this newspaper. One commended Alfred E. Kahn, new chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board, for his attempt to persuade CAB employees to use simple English and use it properly. Among other things, the editorial applauded Kahn's position that the word "presently" means "soon," and should not be used to mean "now."
In the adjoining editorial, we used "presently" to mean "now" in a sentence that began. "If the presently proposed 100-mile rail system is completed . . ."
E. M. Coepe fo Arlington contributed two clippings. One made reference to Hialeah racetrack's "snob appeal before gentile poverty set in." The word we should have used was, of course, "genteel." Cope's second contritbution was from our Thursday Weekly section in which a source was quoted as saying. "David is rather small for his size." Presumably David makes up for it by being rather old for his age.
Complaints are also at hand from two WRC Radio listeners. One says a sportcaster announced that Jack Nicklaus had been the "odds-on" favorite to win the British Open, whereas in truth the odds on Nickalus had been 6 to 1. An odds-on Nicklaus had been 6 to 1. An odds-on favorite is one deemed to have better than an even-money chance of winning.
The other WRC complaint is from a man who wrote: "I didn't catch the name of the announcer, but what he said in his roundup of major league baseball activity was that Sounds had hit a home run "with one person on base." Not one man, but one person. How are they going to carry this genderless mania?"
I can add two complaints of my own to this list. An NBC announcer told us on Monday morning that President Carter ad decided to keep Alaskan oil in this country because of difficult to explain "to we consumers," rather than "to us consumers." That announcer might find it difficult to explain his grammatical ideas to I.
It whould also be noted that the pronunciation nuke-you-low is not being heard quite frequently for the word "nuclear." Even broadcasters, who are usually much more careful about pronunciation than you and I seem to have difficulty in saying nu-klee-ur (or, if you want to be a hit fancier, nyu-klee-ur).
I don't mind telling you that I offer this summary of recent reader criticism with apprehension. I make too many mistakes to be pointing the finger at other people.
What's more, Gold's Law teaches that any column that deals with mistakes made by others is bound to contain at least one error of its (its?) own and probably more, alas.