Recent rumblings on the usage front:
Mrs. James D. Good of Silver Spring caught this August journal in two clinkers not long ago. Philip Habib was on yet another mission to "diffuse the situation in the Middle East," we reported. "That I would like to see," Mrs. Good observes.
She had nearly recovered when she turned to Book World. There, she learned that a translator had "Englished" a Russian book. Her reaction? "Dismay," Mrs. Good said. . . .
Bill Herron of Washington has a bug about how a certain phrase always seems to be misconstructed in The Post.
Bill sent along two recent examples of the wrong way: "Overcrowding at Maryland's two largest prisons," and "the two biggest importers -- Datsun and Toyota."
The right way: "Largest two" and "biggest two," Bill argues. . . .
Another eagle-eye is Jack McKay of Adams-Morgan, who asks me to "reveal to the world the truth about 'fortuitous.'"
It is "not merely a fancy form of 'fortunate,'" Jack correctly points out. "It means simple 'by chance, accidental'" in its primary and most used meaning. "One may fortuitously be run over by a truck. . . .," he said.
One may also be as horrified by mixed metaphors as Albert P. Toner of Arlington.
Al sent along a real honey the other day. The Post's only defense is that the offending passage appeared first in The Wall Street Journal. All columnist Judy Mann did was to relay it.
Try this: Coworkers of pregnant women who take leaves of absense "have had to burn the midnight oil to take up the slack. . . ."
As for left-hand-not-knowing-about-the-right-hand, Ben Willis of McLean was struck by two mentions of Richard Viguerie in the July 9 Post.
On Page A6, Viguerie is called "conservative direct-mail king." But on page C-12 of the same day's paper, Viguerie is referred to as "the right-wing prince of direct mail politics." Ben suggests we make up our minds. . . .
A mutual pet peeve nomination from Benjamin Custer of Bethesda and L. F. Hubert of Cross Junction, Va.: people who say "convince" when they mean "persuade."
According to Webster, "convince" means "to overcome the doubts of," and "persuade" means "to cause to do something, especially by reasoning, urging or inducement."
As Hubert notes, "'convince' is the slovenly all-purpose choice. . . ."
Greta Flintermann Blair of Alexandria writes that she was astonished to see the following sentence in a recent Post:
"Walking on a Georgetown street, not too far from Wisconsin Avenue, the old Star Carpet Works looks pretty much as it always has."
As Greta points out, old news may indeed be old news. But it's still startling to some people to see a carpet factory walking down the street. . . .
To Stephen Krop of McLean, there are two sure signs that the end is near: "gonna" and "kids."
"Can't we take the time to split it into 'going to' any more?" Steve Wonders. And how sad, he adds, that human beings now have "young goats rather than children. . . ."
On the pronunciation front, Warren C. Chapman of Alexandria called the other day right in the middle of a morning television talk show.
"They just said it again," he said. "I can't stand it any more."
"What could be that awful," I asked him?
"Congradulations," Warren replied.
"That's awful," I agreed.
Meanwhile, Ellen Coile of Bethesda is just now getting over the wreckage left behind by Bernie Smilovitz of WTTG in his efforts to report on the All-England Tennis Championships.
Bernie kept insisting they were playing at "Wimbleton." "Drove me crazy," said Coile, a former resident of Britain. . . .
Last but not least is this intriguing stumper from Mike Jones of Arlington.
"What part of speech is 'sex' in the phrase 'to have sex?'" Mike asks.
After all, as Mike points out, "we all have sex; it's called gender -- masculine or feminine."
"We don't have hear or have eat or have speak," he notes. "We hear, eat or speak.
"I know that 'to have sex' is a circumlocution to avoid the direct verb, but what part of speech is it?"