Since this is America's Day (almost), let's hear some unvarnished truth about America's language from Marion Hayes of Northwest.
Like the rest of us, Marion thinks that some newspaper writers treat the English language with about the same respect they accord a grilled cheese sandwich.
Unlike the rest of us, Marion saves the evidence. A whole envelope's worth arrived in the mail the other day.
Cover your ears. Some of this is going to hurt.
First, from a Peugeot ad in the May 15 Post: "For 6,000 torturour miles. . ."
Yes, "torturous" is in the dictionary. But as Marion Hayes points out, correct usage calls for "tortured," "torturing" of "tortuous" in this particular context.
Then come some recent examples of Siamese Words: "Tests are underway at four major medical research centers. . ." "You won't get off the ground for awhile. . ." And so on.
All should be split, of course. "Who programs the computer?" Hayes asks. It was man or woman who joined these words, I'm afraid, Marion, and only man or woman can tear them asunder.
You prefer poor word choices? Try these:
"It speaks well . . . for Reagan that he took Burns' critique in good grace." A doubleheader, this one. Not only should "critique" be "critism," but "in good grace" should be "with good grace."
And from an editorial page column: "Many observers are deeply troubled -- as am I -- by the disarray of Congress." Why the inversion of "am" and "I," Hayes wants to know..
Hayes' final salvo may be the most damning of all -- one word used in one sentence as two parts of speech:
"We have to be able to deal with the way crime and the criminal-justice system impact on the unemployment problem; with the way the military impacts on unemployment . . . with business, with education, with residential mobility and their impact on unemployment."
That's verb-verb-noun, for those of you keeping score.
ADDENDUM: I thought I had ferreted out an even worse sin of usage in our sports section the other day when I glanced at a headline and saw the word "penultimate."
Too, often, that's the choice of a misguided copy editor who is stretching for an ultimate form of ultimate. That exists about as often as uniquer uniques, colder coldests and better bests.
Anyway, my fears were groundless. The story was about a horse called Sunshine Mary. She had previously finished dead last every time she ran. Then she finally managed to come in 10th in a field of 11.
Truly, there was only one word that could describe Sunshine Mary's effort, even if it sent sports fans scrambling for the dictionary.
Permit me, a fellow "bridgie," to lead a few public cheers for Andrew Kaufman of Bowie.
At the age of 13 years, four months and 15 days, Andy attained the rank of life master -- the highest in bridge -- at a tournament last week in Scranton, Pa.
He is the youngest person ever to become a life master.
Andy's achievement will probably be topped some day; records are made for only one thing, after all. Still, it won't happen until some ambitious parent spends years slipping books on bidding into the baby's crib.
For now, Andy Kaufman sits slol atop a tough, tough mountain. Well done, ace.
Groan-and-bear-it Department, Division of Latin Phrases:
The official motto of the District of Columbia is Justitia Omnibus. Bill Sullivan of Silver Spring's Leisure World wonders if it translates to: "Your bus just left."
The Postal Service surpasses itself.
Milton S. Kronheim, Washington's grand old liquorateur, attempted to mail a letter to New York Mayor Edward Kock last month.
Kronheim addressed it to Gracie Mansion, and even added the street address for good measure.
Back it came a few days later -- addressee unknown.
On the other side of the coin. . .
A letter for Bill Gold found its way into my mailbox on June 30. It was addressed to "Bill Gold, W. Post, Washington, D.C."
It had been mailed the previous day.
You figure it out.