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Author Topic: Shell-shocked by English grammar bombs in entertainment reporting  (Read 5787 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: April 21, 2015, 12:25:17 AM »

For better or for worse, this column will depart from the usual so it can take up the atrocious English of two wedding-related stories that came out recently in entertainment news and gossip websites. The first is about American singer Beyoncé Knowles’ mother getting married to an actor, and the other about Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes, the recently wed and overhyped Filipino TV-and-movie couple, telling all and sundry that they are now expecting a baby.

Take a look first at the lead sentence of the Ph.News.Yahoo.com story (obviously a local rehash) about the wedlock in the U.S.: “The 61-year-old mother of Beyoncé Knowles and her sister Solange tied the knot with the 68-year-old actor on Sunday, TMZ reports.”

Of course I’m well aware that entertainment news-cum-gossip writers often take liberties with their English and get away with it, but I was incredulous that Yahoo News saw fit to run that badly constructed sentence without editing it. I thought I should call their attention to the oversight so I posted it on my Facebook page with the tag “Sloppy English” and asked, “Huh, who wed who?” I then made a follow-up post enjoining anyone to show how that sentence might be fixed to do a better reporting job.

Facebook tells me that 97 people have read those postings by now, but none of them has offered a correction or response. So, for crying out loud, I’m left with no recourse but to answer the question myself.

Through slovenly writing, that lead sentence wrongheadedly asserts that two blood-related women—Beyonce’s mother, 61, and her mother’s daughter Solange, 28—simultaneously tied the knot with the same 68-year-old actor! That’s a highly abnormal kind of marital union even by the standards of the ultra-jaded world of pop music entertainers (think Madonna, think Miley Cyrus), but we who know our English know it’s really nothing of that sort.

What we have here is a sentence that has careened into nonsense due to information overload—a victim of the profound tendency of many entertainment and gossip writers to say everything in just a single burst, as if their lives depended on it. In this particular case, the subject (Beyonce’s mother) gets overwhelmed by a compound premodifier (“61-year-old”) and two postmodifiers (“Beyoncé Knowles,” “her sister Solange”), with all three jostling one another to get their respective modifying jobs done.

So what’s a good fix for that sentence? Simple: just drop the phrase “her sister Solange.” The sentence will then read as follows: “The 61-year-old mother of Beyoncé Knowles tied the knot with the 68-year-old actor on Sunday, TMZ reports.” After all, needlessly getting Solance into the picture only spells trouble—a distasteful ménage à trois—for that sentence.

And that’s not yet the end of my story. Right after making those posts on Facebook, I checked my Facebook messages box and found this alert from English teacher Gege Cruz Sugue:  “Look, Jose A. Carillo!” Below was a PhilippineNews.ph story and photo of Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes with this headline: “CONFIRMED: Marian Rivera Is Now Having A Two Months Pregnancy With Husband Dingdong Dantes.”

From the long discussion thread that preceded Gege’s alert, it was clear that she and her Facebook friends were having a field day poking fun at the many grammar errors in the built-in photo caption and main story. I’ll only mention three because I’m running out of space: “CONFIRMED: Dingdong, Marian are Pregnant! “She is pregnant with her husband.” “A baby will soon to come out!”
 
So shell-shocked was I by the grammar bombs in that story that I got swayed into joining the Facebook discussion with this post: “All I can say is: Awful, awful, eww English! The news writers of PhilippineNews.ph absolutely need to bone up on their English grammar and usage!”

This essay first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times, April 18, 2015 issue © 2015 by Manila Times Publishing. All rights reserved.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2015, 09:58:38 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

Joe Carillo
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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2015, 12:50:21 AM »

(1) A response to “Shell-shocked by English grammar bombs in entertainment reporting” when it appeared in the online edition of The Manila Times:

Jonathan says:
April 18, 2015 at 8:42 am

Remember that orange juice commercial on TV that used to blurt out “For a pleasant Good Morning!”. And that TV ad ran for months!

Reply
Jose A. Carillo says:
April 18, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Sorry, I don’t remember that TV commercial. It must have run not in the Philippines but elsewhere, or perhaps the ad campaign took place before I learned English. In any case, I think “For a pleasant Good Morning!” is a mildly awful redundancy but not really a cardinal grammar sin like “CONFIRMED: Dingdong, Marian are Pregnant!

(2) Response of reader Anthony Perez sent to me by e-mail:
Apr 19 at 4:13 AM

Dear Mr. Carillo,

The "English grammar bombs" in your column yesterday brought to mind this item I read in the Philippine Star last Wednesday, April 16, 2015:

"LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A US woman convicted of the brutal 2008 killing of her boyfriend in a case that gripped America was told she will die in prison on Monday after being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but why would she be meted a life sentence if she were to die in a few days?

Where should the misplaced "on Monday" go: after "was told" (as in "was told on Monday") or at the end of the sentence?

Thank you.

ANTHONY PEREZ

Reply
Jose A. Carillo says:
April 21, 2015 at 10:21 PM

Dear Anthony,

Every now and then, even the more established wire news agencies like the Agence France Presse bomb out in their English reporting. Clearly, the phrase "was told she she will die in prison on Monday" in that sentence is a sophomoric rhetorical flourish, syntactically troublesome and altogether needless, by a new reporter trying to impress the agency's editors. Without it, that sentence would have read simply and very succinctly as follows:

"LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A US woman convicted of the brutal 2008 killing of her boyfriend in a case that gripped America was sentenced on Monday to life without the possibility of parole."

The problem isn't really a misplacement of "on Monday" in the original sentence or anything of that sort; it's just that the whole phrase absolutely has no business being there.

Thank you for bringing that grammar faux pas to my attention, and have a great evening!

Sincerely yours,
Joe Carillo
« Last Edit: April 21, 2015, 12:55:44 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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