Author Topic: Wrong word usage and verbosity in journalism - 2  (Read 12383 times)

Joe Carillo

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Wrong word usage and verbosity in journalism - 2
« on: January 28, 2021, 03:55:18 AM »
In last week’s column I started a retrospective of my weekly forays into the country’s journalistic writing terrain, during which I hunted down, dissected, and attempted to rectify English-language reporting marked by shoddy language, plain untruthfulness or cluelessness, outrageous grammar, and flagrant verbosity.

                                                 IMAGE CREDIT: INTERAKSYON.PHILSTAR.COM

Let’s resume this chronicle of media grammar blunders with this TV reporter’s faux pas while covering a 2009 funeral procession: “These women went here all the way from Tarlac to pay their respects to Tita C___.”  The young guy wrongly used “went here” instead of “came here,” but I thought it was just an isolated mistake—perhaps a slip of the tongue—that he’d avoid the next time.

But right afterwards, the newscaster faced the TV camera and recapitulated his Taglish reporting in straight English: “So out of their love for their Tita C___, these women went here all the way from Tarlac despite the distance and great inconvenience.” This time I was sure that he was clueless of the semantic difference between “go” and “come,” and true enough I caught him making the same mistake the third time during that coverage.

That bad English reporting on TV was actually a case of déjà vu, which is French for “a feeling that one has seen or heard something before.” Indeed, during a live coverage of the funeral procession of a notable Roman Catholic prelate in 2005, another newscaster in his mid-30s confidently said on camera: “The President will go here and is expected anytime now.” He remained blissfully unaware of the grammar gaffe, using “go here” instead of “come here” four or five more times in similar fashion when he referred to other high officials expected during the internment. Shocking!

So let me clarify once and for all when we should use “go” or “come.” It depends on the point of view and position of the speaker or listener. For a movement away from the speaker, listener, or those referred to by the statement, we need to use “go”: “Let’s go to the bank tomorrow.” But for a movement towards or approaching the place where the speaker is, we need to use “come”: “Please come here at noon tomorrow.”

Also in mid-2009, as if foreshadowing the precautions we are all mandated to do today owing to the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic, a major Metro Manila daily came up with this razzle-dazzle, bewildering lead sentence for its swine flu near-pandemic reportage: “Churchmen announced the holding of religious processions and special Masses, students trooped back to schools with bottles of alcohol in their bags and guards in some colleges carried thermometers to check temperatures, as Filipinos joined hands in a battle against the swine flu virus.”

Confused news writers do come up with confusing sentence constructions like this, and from a readability standpoint, that’s terribly bad news indeed! To make sense of it, check my 522-word parsing of that sentence by clicking this link to my June 2009 Media English Watch. (
And then listen to this shocking grammar error that mars this closing spiel for the news analysis segment of a now-defunct 2009 TV program: “No issue is too big or too small to affect you.” It’s a stupendous misuse of a figure of speech known as litotes, a rhetorical form of emphasis in which a statement is expressed by denying its opposite.

To make sense, it must effect that negation by inserting “not” before the phrase “to affect you” so it will read as follows: “No issue is too big or too small not to affect you.” Only then will the intended meaning emerge, which is that “No matter how small or big an issue is, it will always affect you somehow.”

I’ll conclude this three-part column next week.

(Next: Wrong word usage and verbosity in journalism - 3)        February 4, 2021

This essay, 2,030th  of the series, appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Campus Press section of the January 28, 2021 Internet edition of The Manila Times,© 2021 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

Read this article online in The Manila Times:
“Wrong word usage and verbosity in journalism - 2”

To listen to the audio version of this article, click the encircled double triangle logo in its online posting in The Manila Times.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2022, 06:14:47 PM by Joe Carillo »