In the continuing battle to save our fair language, I often train my guns on advertising. Becky Spurlock of Sterling says there's a variety of ad that needs an immediate dose of firepower: Real estate pitches, especially those that run in a certain morning newspaper in the Nation's Capital.
What sins do subdivisions and condos commit? "They mix sentences. And dependent clauses. And phrases. With no rhyme. Or reason," writes Becky. "One can only suppose they know no better. Or don't care. Or think their readers don't.
"I doubt anything can be done. To change this pattern. But I want to go on record. As opposing such usage."
What usage is Becky talking about? I thumbed through a few recent real estate ads. Here are a few fragments poorly disguised as sentences:
"With sports for all ages. Arts and crafts. Classes and shows. An 80-acre park and lake. Fireworks on the 4th. Santa's arrival by helicopter at Christmas. And more."
"Separate living, dining and family rooms. Gourmet kitchens and breakfast areas. Personalized extras like oak cabinets, cathedral ceilings and skylights. Even some homes with garages . . . ."
What's going on in the minds of the ad personnel is pretty obvious. Ads that don't pack a punch are a waste of money. So an entire generation of copywriters has decided that lists of virtues will deliver a wallop only if each. Is separated. Into an individualized. Unit.
But remember this, ye who labor in the advertising vineyards. Commas, periods and verbs sold plenty of real estate in the past. They'd do so again if they were given the chance.
She used to have a federal job, but this winter, she was riffed. So she applied for unemployment benefits in her home state of Maryland. And while she waited for the bureaucratic gears to mesh, she took a $55-a-week part-time job.
Came the day to fill out the forms at the Maryland Office of Unemployment. The clerk duly asked if the woman had any source of income. The woman answered truthfully that she had the part-time job.
The clerk leaned very close to the woman and whispered, "Do they pay you in cash?" The woman replied no, they pay by check, and they file a Form 1099 reporting the income. So the clerk filled out the forms properly, listing the part-time job as income, and reducing the woman's unemployment benefits accordingly. But the clerk was obviously going to ignore the $55 a week if she could have.
"Am I stupid for being so honest?" the woman wants to know.
I'd say no, ma'am, unless you enjoy risking prison. That's exactly what J.R. Herman of the Maryland Office of Unemployment says, too.
"Well, she received a 1099, so her employer reports her earnings to the fed and state. That's that," Brother Herman said. "They have a record of her earnings, and if she does not file [a truthful income tax return], sooner or later they will get hold of her and she will be in big trouble."
This is not to say that little "favors" are not done by unemployment office personnel for applicants. I'm sure they are, all the time, especially when cash wages are involved.
But all who would cheat, on either side of the counter, ought to remember why the phrase "long arm of the law" was invented. Long arms reach. They also grasp.
You're too young to read this, but not too young to steal a heart or two.
I'd say you're between 2 and 3 years old. You have a green barrette in your hair. Your yellow jersey reads "I LOVE MOMMY AND DADDY." And in the picture I'm looking at right now, you're holding the hand of an adult (sex uncertain) who's wearing a blue shirt, and white slacks festooned with violets.
Molly Mooney of Gaithersburg found this picture on March 31, outside the D.C. Armory, after the afternoon performance of the circus. She turned it over to me. Any claimers? I hope so. The snapshot is too picture-perfect not to end up in the hands of its rightful owner.
How's this for the coincidence file?
Brian Miller of Wheaton was stopped by a Montgomery County police officer at 10:50 p.m. April 13 and given a warning for driving his car with only one functioning headlight.
Marcia Miller of Wheaton was stopped by a Montgomery County police officer at 11:30 p.m. April 13 and given a warning for driving another car with only one functioning headlight.
Coincidence One: Craig M. Dickerson was the officer in both cases.
Coincidence Two: Brian and Marcia are brother and sister.