Monday, August 29, 2016
O tempora! O mores! O copyeditors!
Three errors in word usage in the media within one week call for a word or three of stern reproof.
Item 1: “I really believe that this is a big issue in this race—that I am the one candidate that will stand up to whomever is in the White House…” (Sen. Kelly Ayotte, quoted by CNN)
Whoever is correct since it is in the nominative case as the subject in the dependent clause “whoever is in the White House.” The entire clause, not just the pronoun, is the object of the preposition to.
Item 2: “This augers a shift in policy.” (Houston Chronicle)
It should be augur. Auger is a noun that means “a tool for boring holes.” Its root is Old English nafu (“hub of a wheel”) and gar (“spear”). Augur is a verb meaning “foretell , give promise of,” derived from the Latin augere, a diviner of ancient Rome.
Item 3: “Nixon in China showed immense theatrical flare.” (The Guardian, as quoted in the Houston Chronicle)
It should be flair. Flare is a noun meaning “a device that produces a blaze used as a signal” or a verb meaning “burn with an unsteady flame.” It can also mean “spread out or bulge.” It is of unknown etymology. Flair, meaning “style, or uniquely attractive quality” is from the French flairier (“give off an odor”), derived from Latin fragrare.
Now that those items have been disposed of, the Bard of Buffalo would like to commit a few egregious stylistic errors of his own.
Alas, the hordes of evil predators
Have killed off all the copyeditors,
Whom newspaper bosses,
When beset by huge losses,
Have sacrificèd to their creditors.