Over the transom

March 08, 2013|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

Since yesterday's post on pointless strictures went up, further suggestions have come in. Eventually I will repost the original text with all the additions, but for now, keep 'em coming.

I'm a little apprehensive about some of these. Since our newspapers, magazines and book publishers have dispensed with most of the geezers,* those remaining on the thin red line of American editing may not even be aware of some of the more venerable superstitions. I certainly don't wish to corrupt the young.

But onward.

disinterested/uninterested Unless you are writing for a fogy like me, you cannot be confident that your readers will take disinterested to mean "impartial." I'm not happy about this myself. I just sayin'.

beg the question/prompt the question If you mean beg the question in the sense of "circular argument," you're probably going to have to explain the term anyhow.

enormity The sense of enormity as "a great evil" has been badly blurred, and you might not want to risk it.

collide, collision No, both objects do not have to be in motion to have a collision. A mistaken application of etymology has held sway for too long. 

only  Go ahead and shift only around in sentences to your heart's content, so long as you realize that Theodore Bernstein,** Jan Freeman, and many others have pointed out that you don't need to.

*Not that I suggest in any way that American publishing operations are making staffing decisions on the basis of age discrimination. That would be illegal.

**Theodore Bernstein! From Miss Thistlebottom's Hobgoblins! 1971! And you're still fooling with that?

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