Monday, June 14, 2010

Prep talk

I’m not sure I agree with my old colleague Terry Snow,
who expostulates fulminatively in last week’s Listener
about the tendency to drop prepositions from news
reports, eg, ‘The high exchange rate has impinged their
profit’ and ‘British families are grieving loved ones lost
in Iraq.’ The English language didn’t get where it is today
without tightening, abbreviating, welding, fusing two
words into one, shedding wasteful words, getting ever
cleaner and crisper. ‘Grieving loved ones’ seems just as
good to me, if not better, than ‘Grieving for loved ones,’
and I also have no problem with ‘He appealed the verdict’
instead of ‘He appealed against the verdict’ and ‘They
protested the decision’ without the need for ‘against.’ If
the meaning is indisputably clear, as it is in all these
cases, then let’s not fret if the odd preposition misses the
cut. They still have a pretty good life, those preps, with at
least a walk-on role in just about every sentence ever
spoken or written.

By the same token, I've long been a fan of the American
custom of dropping superfluous letters from words, eg,
program for programme and traveler for traveller
(though, perversely, Americans cling to fulfill and willful).
I think also that the inventive abbreviations of txting
enrich, not impoverish, the language. A good acronym
gives me untold pleasure. The only form of abbreviation
that irks me is the growing media tendency to run the
initials of people's names together, so that C K Stead,
say, becomes CK Stead. Instead. As it were.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You do well to spot the fad for dropping prepositions (except compound and long prepositions, such as "in terms of" and "throughhout"). One hears this fad not just in news programs, but in all forms of broadcasting. Also commonly dropped are: "if", all forms of "to be", articles, the past tense, "as", pronouns, and many other one syllable words. It's not about economy of speech--in vogue are adverbs (actually, necessarily, simply, absolutely), long Latinate words for longstanding English ones (such as "additional" for "more" and "further"; "available" for about a dozen once common words; words which take many syllables to say little, e.g., "opportunity", "particular", "scenario", as in "case-scenario"). It's about sounding smart and fashionable, and doing whatever the consultants say. As Bowie said, "There's a brand new talk and it's not very clear. That people from good homes are talking this year. Ooh wa, Fashion." In terms new English, this particular individual actually not liking as well....