Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Mon Jul 15 23:27:40 UTC 2002

Has anybody else noticed this latest journalese excrescence?

There's obviously a style book somewhere that urges journalists to avoid
the use of the conjunction "that".  I.e., thou shalt write: "He said he had
been at home sleeping at the time of the crime," not: "He said THAT he had
been at home...."

This has somehow gotten translated into an absolute prohibition against
EVER using "that" as a conjunction.  I keep hearing the results on NPR,
whose correspondents sound like they're using an infinitive construction
but pereversely leaving out the "to."  Every time, it pulls me up short,
then I try the alternate "that" construction, with optional deletion of the
"that" and think, grudgingly, "all right--I guess it's at least marginally
grammatical."  I keep meaning to remember the example verbatim and ask this
list about it, but by the time I arrive at work, sure enough I've forgotten

This morning I heard a particularly bizarre example, and I REMEMBERED IT!

In a report on John Walker Lind's surprise guilty plea, the correspondent
(or was it Bob Edwards--he's guilty of all of these style-book oddities)
said that Lind's lawyers had planned to "ask the judge disallow" statements
Lind had made under interrogation by U.S. agents in Afghanistan.

Now I submit that this actually crosses the line.  "...ask the judge TO
disallow" would be fine, and so would "ask THAT the judge disallow," but to
me, *"ask the judge disallow" is just plain not a grammatical AE sentence.
What's wrong with "ask the judge TO disallow," for God's sake?

Is there anyone out there who would find it natural to "ask the judge
disallow" something?

No more rants today--I promise.

Peter Mc.

                               Peter A. McGraw
                   Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
                            pmcgraw at

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