Then was then

October 04, 2012|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

It's probably cranky of me to complain about the solicitude of journalists who write for me as if I were on the brink of senile dementia, but sometimes they just explain too much. What I have in mind is Pointless Then-ness.

You see it all the time. "In 1996, then-President Bill Clinton appointed ..." Now, if I were in fact on the brink of senile dementia, I might still imagine that Bill Clinton is president. Or if I were one of the besotted Democrats watching the party's recent national convention, I might wish that Bill Clinton were still president. But I am more or less compos mentis and aware of my location in the space-time continuum. I know that Bill Clinton is no longer president, and when I see a writer establish a temporal context ("in 1996"), I don't require the damned then

I suppose I should be grateful when writers give me some credit and refrain from writing, say, "In A.D. 9, then-Emperor Augustus Caesar ..." 

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