Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cute Overload Hurts Everyone

Thanks to my unseemly interest in the residential sprinkler debate, I find myself with yet another example of bad grammar in journalism. The Greenville, South Carolina Examiner published an article recently that contained the following:

After an emblazoned battle between industry professionals and 100's of firefighters that were in support of fire sprinklers and the Home Builders Association and numerous builders who were against, the SC House and Senate sided with the latter.
I can find at least three problems with this sentence, and I don't mean the implication that the HBA and builders are not industry professionals. I started looking at the grammar because of the use of the word "emblazoned", which was too cute by half. While you could, indeed, make a case for interpreting the word to mean "having been made famous" no reader should have to work that hard to interpret a newspaper article.    

The battle may have been bitter, contentious, well-publicized, or otherwise notorious. To emblazon something is to make it more noticeable, certainly, but the usual use involves adding decoration to the thing rather than arguing about it in public fora. Do we suspect the author used the word solely because of the "blaz" in the middle? I don't know about you but I certainly do.

Once I got past that, the "100's" pulled me up short yet again. First, why the heck wouldn't you just use the word hundreds in this context? Second, that apostrophe made me post this. I was willing to let emblazoned pass but this? No. The little jot of punctuation seems to have strayed from the word Builders, where it by rights ought to be at the end. To be fair very, very few associations make use of the plural possessive correctly but the writer should have known better. As the longest sentence of nine in the article, one would have thought the editor would have made him.