Let me begin this brief post by saying that I respect our local television news, and my day feels incomplete if I miss the evening newscast. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can move on to my main point, which is that you can’t necessarily rely on your local newscast for beautiful—or even correct—use of the English language. Here are two recent examples:
A few weeks ago, our local news sent out this text alert:
No explosives found on woman who threatened Joint Base Andrews. Situation diffused.
Can you hear me sighing? If not, I can do it louder. Because the situation was defused (made “less dangerous, potent, or tense”), not diffused (made “widely perceptible, known, or familiar”). Yes, defuse/diffuse is one of my “things,” just like, you know, spelling stuff right.
More recently, one of the weekend anchors began a sentence like this:
The woman, named twenty-year-old Sue Smith…
I haven’t fact-checked it, but I doubt that the woman’s name was actually “Twenty-Year-Old Sue Smith.” I can tell you that her name was certainly not Sue Smith, because I made that part up to protect good ol’ Twenty-Year-Old’s true identity.
And then there are the dangling modifiers. But I’m not allowed to say anything about those because other people in my household are just sick of hearing about them. Some other time, perhaps.
Stock image by Kakigori Studio via Adobe Stock, with some modifications.