Elliot: Prepositions & common mush


Coffee rust is destroying the Guatemalan coffee crop, according to NPR.

As if, given the war in Gaza, the war in eastern Ukraine (preventing international workers from getting to the crash site of the shot-down Malaysian jetliner), and the collapse of the Red Sox this season, we haven’t had quite enough bad news.

Yes, I know; most of you don’t much care about the collapse of the Sox, but you haven’t been Sox fans since you were 7. As my colleagues can report, I have the oldest, dirtiest Sox cap in existence; I’m not going to get a new one until either the Sox win another World Series or there’s peace in the Middle East. In this race, I’m betting on the Sox, as pitiful as they are this season.

Then there’s the world-shattering problem of ending English sentences with prepositions. Who knew that was world-shattering?

Well, some, it seems.

As many, many experts have noted — from Modern English Usage author H.W. Fowler to the American Heritage Dictionary — your elementary-school teachers who hammered into your developing minds that you may not end a sentence with a preposition were utterly wrong. They were, according to many word mavens, pushing a superstition developed by British writer John Dryden (1631-1700), who wanted English to be more like Latin.

Um, yeah. English should be more like a dead language. (Just give inveterate text-messengers a chance.)

 As American Heritage puts it, “English syntax does allow for final placement of the preposition, as in ‘We have much to be thankful for’ or ‘I asked her which course she had signed up for.’ Efforts to rewrite such sentences to place the preposition elsewhere can have stilted and even comical results.”

Or as Winston Churchill, a conservative whom I respect, once famously said, “This is the sort of English up with which I cannot put.”

Meanwhile, the world moves on beyond prepositions in the English language. Imagine that. (I can’t actually; is there anything more important in the world than English prepositions and their placement? I thought not.)

For instance, some billionaire money meisters keep warning us of the coming financial conflagration in which the stock market, then the economy, will crash and burn, and we will all wind up penniless.

(Well, some of us are already penniless, because who uses pennies anymore?)

Well, let’s see. In the recession, the Dow Jones Industrial Average bottomed at 6,547.05 on March 9, 2009, a 12-year low. Well, it was the recession. We’ll note that President Obama had been in office for around six weeks, not a whole lot of time to turn around the aircraft carrier that is the U.S. economy. In terms of the U.S. economy, it’s around 3 seconds. Maybe fewer.

With the Dow rising from that low on March 9, 2009, that’s a 159.66 increase into this year, approximately. The Dow went over 17,000, obviously, if it could fall 123 points on July 25 and still be at 16,960.

So, are we in a bubble and is the economy going to crash and burn? Which sounds not so much like mixing metaphors as tossing metaphors into a blender and pushing the mush button.

I don’t know. I’m not an expert on mush. But it sounds a little like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., telling a small group from the Urban League in Cincinnati on July 26 that he, too, is a minority because of the “shade of his ideology.”

Um, yeah. I wonder if Paul knows the geography of prepositions. He doesn’t know the geography of “shade.”

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