Niagara Gazette

Opinion

February 23, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Grammar that'll drive you to drink

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Imbibers — Old Saddlesoap has recanted. You could have knocked Doug down with a swizzle stick. It was just last Saturday that we ranted about how higher-ups planned to water down Doug’s favorite nightcap, justifying the dilution with a cock-and-bull yarn about shortages.

As a courtesy, he cc’d Old Saddlesoap management. By Sunday, the company told him it had changed its mind. Power of the press! (Now if we could just get people to yield at the Three Stooges Memorial Roundabout.) Even Jay Leno joked about it Tuesday night, but never mentioned our vital role. Ah, well, who needs fame when our whiskey (Maker’s Mark, actually) holds at 90 proof.

Even the experts were staggered. Bourbonologist Chuck Chowdry had blogged, “There will be a hew and cry for a few days, and then it will be forgotten.” Which brings us, then, to our quarterly lurch down Grammar Alley. It’s “hue and cry,” from a 16th Century English legal practice concerning the pursuit of felons, presumably including distillers of watery hooch. “Hue” derives from an antique French word for “yell.” A few more hues and cries ...

• “If your driverless car does get in an accident, whom is to blame, you or the software developer?” asked Froma Harrop of Creators Syndicate. Froma, a fine writer, needs to recalculate here. A car gets “into an accident,” and it’s “who is to blame.”

• To “Sad,” Dear Abby advised – “Your husband should try to convince his parents to get counseling.” In obitting a-bomb pioneer Donald Hornig, The Week magazine said “He declined (the job) until the president of Harvard University called and convinced him to take it.” In both instances, the subjects were “persuaded,” not “convinced.” We persuade people to act (even some distillers) and convince them of facts or opinions.

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