Friday, May 27, 2011

Disfigures of Speech

Yesterday, I was in a community center when the public address system informed us that a test of the fire alarm was about to commence and that we should ignore it. I did, to the best of my ability -- but I could not help but wonder what a “fire annunciator” is or how exactly a “fire emergency” differs from, say, a mere fire.

Later, I was grocery shopping in a high-end store and was taken aback in the cosmetics aisle (just passing through, mind you) by a legend reading, “Ethnic Care.” I don’t know about you, or if this is just a girl thing, but I don’t know of anyone who has ethnics to care for anymore. (In the D.C. area, ethic care, maybe.)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I am watching too much TV, which is not good for one’s language comprehension. Or logic.

Think about how many times you hear a broadcaster – an expert in television! – tell you that the station will have “film of the events” on a later show. I don’t know the exact date that film stopped being used on television, but I suspect it was around the time that an 8-track tape was last heard.

Of course, newspaper writer are equally ignorant of technology when they so frequently describe TV cameras “whirring.” Whirring went out approximately when Edward R. Murrow’s last cigarette did. (I would rather gay soldiers being wedded to each other than professional communicators wedded to clichés.)

On the same technology road to perdition, the revered Washington Post had an article yesterday about a political operative who was “expanding his Rolodex” That guy ought to find another profession is he is still using a Rolodex! (Actually they all should.)

Any time a newspaper reporter is trying to make sense out of something for which s/he has no actual evidence or on-the-record quotations, it is clear “a portrait is emerging.”

When a cable TV anchor doesn’t understand something (which is 24/7/365), she often “can’t wrap my head around it.” What a portrait emerges there! Clearly, I hope, she malapropped “can’t get my head around it” or “can’t wrap my arms around it.”

How about a simple, “Beats me?”

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