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If you spell de rigueur de rigeur you've got yourself an Oy Canada.

What's wrong with this sentence from a Boston Globe lede?

"A 34-pound Canadian lynx, an animal found primarily in northern states such as Maine and Montana, was carried through (veterinary school's) doors with two broken bones and multiple leg fractures."

No doubt you squinted at a couple of things. No. 1 might have been Canadian lynx, which Webster's New World College Dict., 4th ed., shows as Canada, the same as it displays Canada goose. No. 2 was surely the Franken-phrase two broken bones and multiple...fractures." Show me a broken leg and I'll show you a fracture.

The following minuscule item appeared in a cartoon balloon spotted in an ad for toys: "Gotta question? Well, go ahead and ask!" The above-mentioned WNW 4 does not sanction this, noting at gotta: "[phonetic sp. of informal pronoun. of got to] (have or has) got to -- I gotta go; she's gotta be kidding." American Heritage Dict., 4th ed., concurs: "gotta -- informal. Contraction of got to: I gotta go home." The do you have sense is eschewed.

If you did well with these solecisms, you win a run at three more from the pages of the same resource: A new CD "was recently picked up by MTV for it's late-night romp 'Undressed.'" The possessive form of it is its. It's is the contraction of it is or it has. Now try this: "When Sammy Hagar got bounced from Van Halen in 1996, (the writer) thought ... he'd shrivel up into a curly blond-haired dust bunny and blow away on the Santa Ana winds...." (The late word-maven Ted Bernstein was all over this goof forty years ago when he wrote in More Language That Needs Watching (Channel Press): "This kid needs straightening out. 'He had become the father of a curly blond-haired boy.'") In each of the above blond curly-haired is what will work.

And when a resolute group of WWII veterans decided to sail a re-built LST -- for Landing Ship-Tank -- home to the U.S. to serve as a memorial, the writer described them as "its graying and grizzled crew...." To the incurious, grizzled may come across as suggesting weather-beaten, leathery, perhaps craggy; it's often linked to one's facial features. But check this definition in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dict., 10th ed. -- "grizzled/adj. (15c): sprinkled or streaked with gray: graying -- a grizzled beard."

Look things up. Try to get them right. This will amaze and gratify your readers.

* Colleague Kathryn E. Jandeska, now a v.p. at Aon Consulting Inc., Chicago, e-mails CW "The Feb. 5 issue of PR News carries a story on Veranda, an Atlanta-based magazine about beautiful homes and gardens. As its (wonderful) name suggests, the magazine has a Southern flavor.

"What made me laugh was this sentence: 'Given its roots, Veranda is no doubt gentile.'

"Huh? Wait a minute, there have been Jews in Georgia for generations! When I stopped laughing I started thinking about it: Had the writer misspelled genteel or was he/she characterizing the magazine as somehow heathen or pagan (other, less common definitions of the word gentile)? Upon further reflection, I believe I'll go with what's behind Curtain A."

My thanks to genteel gentlewoman Jandeska for a charming cite.

* Snail-mail from Wilma Mathews brought me this bit of ragged writing she'd read in her Arizona Republic late last year -- the story dealt with a so-called alt-fuels tax credit program. What caught Wilma's eye at her Arizona State p.r. office desk was the graf that said the credit would go to "Those whose vehicle is currently in the state...." WM's Post-It observed, "Any wonder that we have K-12 education problems?"

* The monthly Letter of the Royal Bank of Canada, ordinarily a bilingual paradigm of grammatical and orthographic excellence, laid a major oeuf when its November 2000 issue presented its French/English speaking constituency with "Being judgemental is not politically correct, and is therefore not de rigeur trendy company." It is not de rigueur to spell de rigueur de rigeur.

Oy Canada.

Alden Wood, APR, lecturer on editorial procedures at Simmons College, Boston, Mass., writes and lectures on language usage, He is a retired insurance industry vice president of advertising and public relations.
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Title Annotation:grammatical errors in print
Author:Wood, Alden
Publication:Communication World
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2001
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