Greetings and Syllabifications, Gather Gabbers!
Itâ€™s Cons Week!Â I mean Prose Week!Â Todayâ€™s topic is Criminal Abuseâ€¦of the language!
Iâ€™ve been collecting examples of language abuse lately.Â Crime shows are a treasure trove of fractured English.Â Psychologists, detectives, and commentators feel a special burden to sound self-important and knowledgeable, leading to hilarious examples of
- wordy constructions
- wandering sentences
A malaprop is the use of an incorrect word, usually having a similar sound to the appropriate word.Â The name comes from that of a literary character, Miss Malaprop.Â Norm Crosby is a notable malaprop comedian.Â Many of Yogi Berraâ€™s greatest lines are malaprops, such as (not sure if this is actually his) â€œI shouldnâ€™t have spit on the umpire, but the fine was more than I expectorated.â€
Here are some commonly encountered malaprops (correction in parentheses):
The suspectâ€™s behavior peaked our interest. (piqued)
The interrogator decided to take a different tact. (tack, as in sailing)
We were going into unchartered territory.Â (uncharted, i.e. unmapped)
At the army intake center, they stripped me butt naked. (buck)
He had a lot of nerves to be able to do that.Â (nerve, i.e. courage.Â â€œnervesâ€ means â€œanxietyâ€)
She has a hard time sticking to a diet regime. (regimen)
There was a connection between the two incidences. (incidents)
He was nonplussed; nothing fazed him.Â (nonplussed=baffled)
Chomping at the bit. (The expression is â€œchampingâ€. It turns out the distinction between the two words is hardly worth making, except that â€œchampingâ€ is something horses do.)
Here are some other, perhaps less universal, malaprops Iâ€™ve run across:
That was the only inclination I had that something was wrong. (indication or inkling)
This type of sexual predator fashions himself in a relationship with the victim. (fancies)
The forensic sketch artist must stay within the restraints of the science. (constraints.Â Constraints are bounds, limitations.Â Restraints immobilize.)
That one print alone puts her on the defenseâ€”it puts her at the scene at the time of the murder. (defensive)
Here are a couple important pitfalls of which I happen to have only one example today:
Ambiguity is an important pitfall to be alert for. Â If a word can mean more than one thing, choose another one. Â Hereâ€™s one example from Nancy Grace:
Then after just one night behind bars, we see Jodi curled up in the fetal position and basically lying on the interrogation table giving her second version of what happenedâ€¦ (I think she started out to say â€œlying on the standâ€)
Jargon, according to some authors, is the misuse of excessively technical words:
Latent print 169a was individualized as the left palm of Jodi Ann Arias
Now it really gets fun!Â Our last two categories are logorrheic* constructions and tangled run-on sentences.
(*I couldnâ€™t resist using this word.Â Logorrhea means "verbal diarrhea".)
LOGORRHEA, or WORDY PHRASES DEMONSTRATING EXCESSIVE SUPERFLUITY
Beware of redundant phrases and phrases that take six to eight words to say what could be said in one or two, or eliminated altogether.Â I think I got every one of these from a single episode of Nancy Grace Mysteries.Â Superfluous words in strikethrough, redundancies in italics, corrections in [brackets].
In light of the fact that
I would venture to say that
Even professional jewelers have trouble telling them from real diamonds because of their similarity. (Okay, that was a commercial during the show.)
She was there of her own free volition.
I would think the crime scene is going to be a key component in [to] the juryâ€™s decision.
Specifically, Iâ€™m referring to the fact that
I expect the defense to focus largely on dragging Travis Alexanderâ€™s reputation through the mud and destroy any legacy he had left behind
I also think they will focus on trying to establish that she was a battered woman
There was a point in time when we were in love, but it was short-lived. Â [We were briefly in love.]
At the point in time that [When] you want to rinse it outâ€¦
I think that is the single most important thing that happened
So far what the state has put inâ€”the stateâ€™s caseâ€”alludes to [mentions] no physical violence whatsoever.
REAL-LIFE FRACTURED SENTENCES
Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), I believe, said â€œPerhaps he should have left a trail of breadcrumbs before he ventured down that sentence.â€Â Here are some examples of Hansel-and-Gretel sentences, in order of speaker from the least culpable (real-life technicians who mean well) to the most inexcusable:
Abrasions on the person, the absence of socks on his feet, and it appeared he had rolled down the roadway, which is all conducive to being struck by a motor vehicle.
From a police training video!
Jim, I feel the single most causal factor which led to the attack of Mike and I were our mental attitudes.
(He was trying to say "What enabled Mike and me to fend off the attack was our mental attitude.")
Crime scene analyst:
As soon as I walked in I knew that this is going to be a rather extra-ordinary-type case. There was virtually every conceivable type of bloodstain pattern incorporated into this one scene. Just the first visualization of that scene immediately told me I'm going to be here for quite a while due to the extent of the bloodshed that occurred during this struggle.
From the same forensic psychologist/commentator in the same program:
Greg, it seems, did not necessarily want something from the murder; what he wanted primarily was to do Kelly's bidding as a way of ingratiating her to him so he could enjoy that relationship.
(BTW, the correct usage is â€œingratiating himself to her.â€ Ingratiating means â€œby flattery or service, currying favor for [oneself].â€)
He realized that law enforcement and prosecution were going to be a much more powerful force in his life than Kelly had first represented and he figured out how to cut his losses.
Kelly's behavior was marked substantially by her comfort level in excitement seeking. The kind of risk that ordinary people would be reluctant to take because of the risk of the consequences.
And, finally, the queen of self-important wordiness, Nancy Grace:
What matters the most is what evidence speaks or resonates with the jury, and although there were some horrific crime scene photos and autopsy photos, I think what resonated with the jury the most, aside from the shock value placed on those crime scene and autopsy photos, is the intricate web of lies told by Jodi Arias, and lucky for the prosecution, much of it was caught on tape.
Taking a look analytically at all the evidenceâ€”now weâ€™re in week four of the Jodi Arias murder one trialâ€”there has been a mountain of evidence presented by the state against Jodi Arias.
This is all with the backdrop of the defense opening statement where they admit point blank Jodi Arias killed Travis Alexander.
But what resonates probatively, which means what is provedâ€”provenâ€”to the jury, her lying, I think, because the jury is the sole decision-maker when it comes to credibilityâ€”who are you going to believe?â€”I think thatâ€™s very very important that the state establishes that sheâ€™s a liar.
Write a sketch featuring a self-important character who uses fractured, jargony, wordy English, and capture that in the dialogue.
- PutÂ SunWE in the title and tags.
- Share your post with Gather Writing Essential group.
- Indicate in some way which devices or techniques I should be paying attention to. Â (If responding to todayâ€™s prompt, put Language Abuse in the title field.)
- This prompt does not turn into a pumpkin a week (or even two) from today.Â If your piece isnâ€™t done in the next week or two, get it in when you can.Â This is supposed to be fun.
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- If you would like a little more academic critiqueâ€”but still very friendly and positiveâ€”include the word "rigorous" in your post (e.g. "rigorous critique wanted").
Responses to previous prompts below. Let me know if I missed yours.
by John Beck
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by Mary Ann Slavcheff
byÂ Barbary Chaapel
byÂ Priya P.
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