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To Be or Not to Be

Rosie has written about the lamentable tendency to write pretentious phrases for simple things, but Price's analysis of why this happens is interesting. He says that we increasingly tend to avoid verbs, which are strong words that actually reflect the fluidity of life. As an example, he cites the use of accomplish pest control instead of control pests.

Price's discussion reminded me of the funny column Michael Kinsley, editor of the online magazine Slate, wrote for the Washington Post Nov. 2, 2001. The title was "TV News Killing Our Precious Verbs." He complained that the verb to be is disappearing not only in newspaper headlines but also on television.

Kinsley made his point by writing his whole essay without using the verb to be:

"Wonderful about this universal gerundiciple, or whatever we calling it? That it working equally well as a substitute for the traditional past, present and future tenses. 'Madonna entertaining American troops in Peshawar this evening' could refer to something that already happened, something happening now, or something about to happen. The total effect making one dizzy. Past, present and future melting together as every newsworthy event taking place simultaneously in some dimension beyond the reach of time where man forever biting dog and yet it remaining news."

He ends by asking:

"Where it all ending? God knowing tonight …"

According to Bruce Price it all ending in a weak string of nouns.

How's That?

Found in PRNewswire Aug. 8 about diet Vanilla Coke: "New diet Vanilla Coke has a stylishly fun personality."

So we want our soft drinks to distract us by having personality?

Let Rosie hear from you by mail, 1707 Summit Ave., Suite 201, Richmond 23230; by telephone, (804) 358-0825 ext. 322; or by e-mail, repps@styleweekly.com

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