David M. Brown's Blog

September 5, 2013

It’s all about around and round and round and round as we advocate for

Filed under: Language and grammar,Technology,Writing — davidmbrowndotcom @ 10:21 pm
Tags: , , ,

In an article on the second coming of watches, Nick Bilton writes: “While there is a lot of excitement around the Samsung watch, it is not the first of its kind.”

If I understand this sentence correctly, Bilton discerns no excitement about the Samsung watch, but only about something or other in the vicinity of, or “around,” the watch. What then is the reported excitement directly about?

The preposition, like other words in the sentence, is poorly chosen, but its deployment is not an inadvertent slip. Such wording is increasingly common among the kind of writers who have learned to shun the word “about” and to never use ten words when 19 will do.

Also showing up more and more in the prose of early adopters of the maladapted is the arbitrary appending of propositions to verbs. Thus, companies don’t “offer” a product for our consideration any more, they “offer up” the product (to be sacrificed?). “Show up” as I just used it and “spin on” as I am about to use it are standard idiomatic expressions; “offer up” in lieu of “offer,” as the preposition-appenders use it, is neither standard idiom nor a clever spin on standard idiom. Their “offer up” carries a connotation that the early adopters do not intend. Its function is only to introduce fog and sog. (These are also the writers who perpetually “reach out” for comment instead of just phoning or emailing people.)

Another example, which I never tire of wearying of: When one advocates a position, one normally does so transitively. “I advocate freedom,” let’s say. Or “I advocate gay marriage.” The dictionary will confirm (until the next edition, perhaps) that the verb “advocate” takes a direct object. But now many writers and editors seem to feel that to refer to the value being advocated so directly is too bald a declaration of loyalty. Thus we now often hear about─excuse me, “around”─we now hear around how a writer, activist or politician “advocates for” Position X, as if Position X had hired him to be its spokesperson. What’s next? “Demand for” instead of “demand”? “I demand for absolution.” “I demand for a divorce.” “I demand for you to put all the cash in this duffel bag. I insist about─I mean, around─I insist around it.”

Sure, language evolves. But scribblers should not eagerly or lazily adopt palsied simulations of linguistic innovations which only squishify or opacify their prose. Untutored writers copying the pseudo-hip blunders of other untutored writers should emulate good writers instead, and should study the tools of their craft.


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