Were they really enabled to be able to say that?

It’s only June, but I’ve already come across a clear front-runner for this year’s “worst sentence to make it into print.”*

Cooper said Massachusetts law and regulation prohibit retailers from passing their bulk buy discount to consumers, and that Total Wine & More will “seek a change in both statute and regulation to be able to enable all retailers to be able to pass those discounts on.”

This comes to us via the State House News Service in Massachusetts and appeared in several local newspapers, but we can’t hold the publisher responsible. This seems to be a direct quote from some kind of press release.

It’s nice to take the bull by the horns, and work to put yourself into a position where you’ll be able to enable someone to be able to do something. But in this case, I think we could have hoped for much simpler phrasing, perhaps along the lines of:

will “seek a change in both statute and regulation enabling retailers to pass those discounts on.”

For that matter, I think “allowing” would be a better verb choice. All that abling and enabling is just legalese and doublespeak, quite literally (or is it triplespeak in this case?).

But that’s no surprise as the source is part of a lobbying effort for not just a single industry but a single business, unhappy with existing laws. They might have a point that certain aspects of current regulation need updating, but when their goal is gaining the ability to sell alcoholic beverages below cost, their efforts need close scrutiny. Being able to see through murky language to understand exactly what’s being said is part of how you do that.

(*I don’t actually keep lists of things like “worst sentence to make it into print” but no one’s keeping score.)

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Disperse vs. Disburse

As an editor, you’re exposed to all kinds of weird language use: convoluted sentence structures, idiosyncratic punctuation, unique and unorthodox uses of the formatting features in a word processor. You name it, it’s there.

One oddity you’ll always encounter is the use of one word when another is meant. The typical notation for this for a lot of editors is ww for “wrong word.”

Click to see which word he’s going on about this time…

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American Religiolect: Christianese / Evangelicalese

There was an interesting short feature on PRI’s The World radio program several weeks ago about religious language which is very much worth sharing.

Readers of this blog probably recognize that new and interesting words catch my interest. I’m often very happy to learn a new word, especially it if serves a useful purpose or has interesting origins. This story gave me a double dose, introducing me to a word I didn’t know (Christianese) and a concept I wasn’t familiar with (religiolect).

If you share my fascination with words and ideas, you’ll relate when I say that this was like getting ready to put on the water for my morning cup of tea–and instead finding a mocha latte with two extra shots of espresso already waiting.
Click for your double shot

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Another so-called (or is it so called?) blog post

The phrase “so-called” has been tossed around a lot in recent months, and it’s one that deserves attention and explanation. People use it all the time, but it’s still subject to misinterpretation, both in what people mean (or think they mean) when they use it and what people understand (or think they understand) when they encounter it.

So-called has been on my radar for a long time: I first drafted a post about it in September 2013, using leftover material from a post about the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. My intent then was to point out a wrong use of so-called that was fairly popular in the media at the time — it was being used incorrectly to mean self-described. But I steered away from the tangent about so-called because the post was running long, and while I’ve glanced at the draft a few times since I’ve never gotten around to making a full post about it.

With its new popularity, this seems a good time to revisit so-called.

Click to read more, so called because it’s not less

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Banished but not Vanished

Just a quick post today to get caught up…

Every January the Public Relations Office at Lake Superior State University (Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan) releases its List of Banished Words, a not-so-serious exercise now in its 42nd year. How time flies when you’re hip-deep in snark!

I love and hate the Banished Words List, in the same way that I feel both emotions for Word of the Year rankings. They’re irritating exercises in self-indulgence, but they’re also wonderful snapshots of the psyche of a certain portion of humanity. That annual insight, regardless of how cluttered it might be by other factors, is valuable. While LSSU at times might not seem to take their own list seriously, there are always nuggets worth noticing in there.

This year’s list is no exception.

This year’s list is no exception.

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