Jose Carillo's Forum


If you are a new user, click here to
read the Overview to this section

Team up with me in My Media English Watch!

I am inviting Forum members to team up with me in doing My Media English Watch. This way, we can further widen this Forum’s dragnet for bad or questionable English usage in both the print media and broadcast media, thus giving more teeth to our campaign to encourage them to continuously improve their English. All you need to do is pinpoint every serious English misuse you encounter while reading your favorite newspaper or viewing your favorite network or cable TV programs. Just tell me about the English misuse and I will do a grammar critique of it.

Read the guidelines and house rules for joining My Media English Watch!

Priceless gems of Manila journalese by some newspaper columnists

Sent in by e-mail by Isabel E., Hong Kong-based writer (March 10, 2011):

Hi Joe—I’ve been in Cebu then Dumaguete for the past few weeks and have been seeing either the Philippine Daily Inquirer or Philippine Star, both of them written and edited so sloppily they must make you grind your teeth. I managed to copy a couple of priceless items from various reporters and columnists, which you’ve surely seen.

Last month, describing Noynoy’s [Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s] being under the weather, someone wrote (italicizations mine) “… the president had a case of heavy colds. He caught the colds during the…”  

A column quoted US economist Nouriel Roubini as follows: “…he forecasts food shortage that will hurtle prices to calamitous heights. . . "   I guess he never saw stuff hurtling downwards from the sky!

Another columnist, writing about EDSA: “unfortunately as the years come to past, we continue to witness higher forms of corruption…”

By the way, have you tackled the weird Pinoy use of the noun “anomaly,” which is so ubiquitous? I may have missed it. Cheers!

My reply to Isabel:

Thanks for calling my attention to those faulty-English gems from columnists writing for the Philippine major daily newspapers. As you will notice, though, I thought it prudent to excise the names of the columnists and their columns from the material you quoted. For grammar instruction purposes, I think it should suffice that the grammatical sins are identified but not the sinners.

I must say for the record that being a newspaper columnist myself, I have made it a policy in My Media English Watch not to critique the English of fellow newspaper columnists—no matter how faulty their English grammar and usage might be sometimes. This is as much a matter of courtesy to them as senior journalists as well as a tacit acknowledgment that most of them enjoy the privilege—and suffer the editorial pitfall—of not being subjected to line-by-line copyediting before their pieces go to print. What you read is therefore often exactly what they’ve written in manuscript form, warts and all.

For good measure, I traced the quotes you provided back to their source columns in the newspapers concerned.

Here’s the entire passage for the first quote you provided (italicizations mine):

Despite obviously still nursing a case of heavy colds, the President proceeded to join the event after being under the weather for the past two days.

Malacañang officials disclosed P-Noy caught the colds a few days after his visit in Jolo, Sulu on Feb.11 when he inspected the government relief operations for the flood victims in the province.

Yes, you’re absolutely right, Isabel. The use of the plural “colds” in the phrase “a case of heavy colds” as well as in “caught the colds” is bad English; it should be “a case of heavy cold” and “caught the cold,” with “cold” in the singular form. I know that it has become habitual for some Filipinos—and not a few native English speakers as well—to use expressions with the plural form “colds,” but the fact is that the noun “colds” is not even recognized as a proper word by most of the reputable English-language dictionaries. Both grammatically and idiomatically, the widely accepted usage is “cold,” singular, and I think it will be foolhardy for anyone to persist in using the plural “colds” once he or she gets to know—and verifies to his or her satisfaction--that it’s not correct usage.  

As to this passage by that columnist who quoted a US economist:

Nouriel Roubini, who predicted the US financial crisis, forecasts a global food shortage that will hurtle prices to calamitous heights starting this year. Actually alarm bells started ringing in the last quarter of 2010.

Because the columnist used the phrase “will hurtle prices to calamitous heights,” you said that he probably “never saw stuff hurtling downwards from the sky!” I take this to mean that you find the usage of the verb “hurtle” in the upward sense grammatically faulty. I don’t think so; it might sound iffy to some ears, but I think that usage is acceptable. The verb “hurtle” in the intransitive sense means “to move rapidly or forcefully,” and in the transitive sense, “hurl or fling,” and in neither sense is a direction of the movement specified. I personally would have used the more precise verb “hurl” for that phrase, but there’s really nothing wrong with using “hurtle” and specifying either an upward or a downward movement for it. In my opinion, the phrase “will hurtle prices to calamitous heights” is defensible both grammatically and semantically.

Now let’s take up that third columnist’s statement about EDSA:

Ten years after, we continue to have glorious hope that one day our nation will become a better one. Unfortunately, as the years come to past, we continue to witness higher forms of corruption almost equaling what Marcos did to the country.

Yes, Isabel, I agree with you that the phrase “as the years come to past” is unidiomatic and grammatically suspect if not outright faulty. This is actually the first time I’m seeing that phrase. The grammatically correct and idiomatic phrasing is “as the years come to pass”; in fact, “as the years pass by” and “as the years go by” are more commonly used. I’m sure that the columnist meant to write “as the years come to pass” but somehow ended up with “as the years come to past” in her draft manuscript. A good copyeditor could have given short shrift to that awkward phrasing, though, replacing the “come to past” with “come to pass” without even batting an eyelash.

As to that columnist’s use of the phrase “higher forms of corruption,” the use of the words “higher forms” to describe “corruption” does seem to somehow ennoble this contemptible crime. The adjective phrase “worse forms” would have captured the negative sense of that phrase better.    

Finally, regarding what you say is the weird use of the noun “anomaly” by Pinoys, I’ll look into it. I promise to comment on its usage some other time.

Click to read responses or post a response

Is it necessary for reporters to use the term “ambush interview”?

E-mail from Mr. Juanito T. Fuerte (March 8, 2011):

Hi, Joe,
Do you think it's really necessary for newspaper reporters to mention whether an interview is an "ambushed" interview or not?  And if it is necessary, do you have another word for "ambushed" which, reporters don't seem to get tired of using over and over whenever they want to state that the interview is something spontaneous?
Also, the city newspapers have been heralding lately that "lady drivers" will soon be driving commercial buses in the Metro Manila area.  (Supposedly, they're a lot more careful drivers than male drivers according to the Metro-Manila Development Authority).  My question is, although the words "lady" and "woman" are synonymous to each other, is it proper to use the word "lady" which the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary classifies as a noun, in place of the word "woman" when referring to a female driver? (I don't think the term “lady driver” is proper usage, but until I hear from the expert, I'm holding my bottom dollar bet on it.)
All the best,
Juanito T. Fuerte

My reply to Juanito:

No, I don’t think it’s proper for newspaper reporters themselves to label such interviews “ambush interviews” in their stories. It’s too sensationalistic to my taste and it makes those reporters sound like lawless elements pouncing on hapless interview respondents. Really now, what does it matter to the reader whether an interview was scheduled or done on the spur of the moment? Frankly speaking, the frequent use of the term seems to me nothing less than a form of ostentatious bragging by some reporters, and I really think that newspaper editors should routinely weed out the term from news stories during editing. As to a suitable, level-headed substitute term for “ambush interview,” I would suggest “unscheduled interview” or “chance interview.”

As to the use of the term “lady drivers” for female drivers in news and feature stories, I find it distasteful—even obnoxious. We might as well call male drivers “gentleman drivers” for equal measure from a gender-equality standpoint! Calling female drivers “woman drivers” is likewise grammatically and semantically objectionable to me; it would just lend legitimacy to the ludicrous term “man drivers”! I really look forward to the day when reporters and editors will make it journalistic routine to call female drivers “female drivers” so readers won’t have to deal with semantic drivel when reading their news and feature stories.

Click to read responses or post a response

A Forum member’s comments on GMA 7’s “concised reporting”

E-mail from Miss Mae, Forum member (January 16, 2011):

Dear Mr. Carillo,

As you know, I’m still working on my English. And as such, I have no right to criticize somebody else’s usage of the global language. But when I saw a local TV network’s advertisement the other day, I really felt something wrong. It bragged about the “concised reporting” of its news and current affairs. But “concise” is an adjective and adjectives do not inflect, right?

I tried to look for a copy of that commercial for your review but was not able to find one. Unfortunately, too, we subscribe to a different cable program so I was not able to make a tape-recording of that TV ad. (I just happened to be in somebody else’s house that day when I saw that ad.)

I’m also aware that your focus is on the English grammar of the daily broadsheets, may it be in our country or overseas. But I still dare to ask you about this since the material in question is a commercial aired internationally. And by our countrymen, for Pete’s sake! Do I stand on a firm grammatical ground on this?

Miss Mae

My reply to Miss Mae:

I’m sorry for this much delayed reply. I overlooked that e-mail of yours because of the heavy volume of e-mails in my Yahoo mailbox in mid-January. Thank you for resending it.

I haven’t seen that in-house TV commercial of GMA 7, but if the voiceover unmistakably bragged about that network’s “concised reporting,” then you stand on firm grammatical ground in saying that something’s wrong with the English grammar of that in-house ad. As you correctly pointed out, the word “concise” is an adjective and adjectives don’t inflect. It’s possible, of course, that the GMA 7 voice talent had simply mispronounced “concise” with the “d”-sound and that the mistake simply went unnoticed by the GMA 7 editors. However, if that TV commercial actually spelled out “concised reporting” onscreen, then we have the smoking gun that the TV copywriter mistakenly thought that “concise” is a verb that can inflect into the past participle “concised” to become a legitimate modifier of the noun “reporting.”

My digital Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary classifies “concise” only as an adjective and as nothing else, and it defines the word as “marked by brevity of expression or statement” and “free from all elaboration and superfluous detail.” The four other dictionaries I checked classify and define “concise” in the same way. We can therefore safely conclude that the contemporary usage of “concise” is indeed only as an adjective and definitely not as a verb.

I must acknowledge, though, that during the 1800s until the early 1900s, the past participle “concised” had been used by some writers to modify nouns, as in the following examples: “concised probation” (1812), “finely concised drug” (1908), “concised with admirable force” (1894), “concised without consent” (1889), and “concised shortness of my style” (1816) (Literary usage of "Concised"). From then onwards, however, this usage appears to have been completely abandoned. I searched long and hard for citations of “concised” in Google and found that it has virtually vanished from modern usage.

So the big question is this: Can GMA 7 invoke the evidently archaic use of “concised” as a past participle to justify the use of the phrase “concised reporting” in that in-house TV commercial? Frankly, I think GMA 7 will be terribly ill-advised to do so.

Click to read responses or post a response

View the complete list of postings in this section

Copyright © 2010 by Aperture Web Development. All rights reserved.

Page best viewed with:

Mozilla FirefoxGoogle Chrome

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Valid CSS!

Page last modified: 12 March, 2011, 9:30 p.m.