Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

While I Hate To Sound Like One of Those People. . .

Reports of the demise of good English have been exaggerated since someone first thought that the language needed to be policed. Being someone who has hung out with an awful lot of English majors and their ilk, I have often been in conversations about how horrible this or that example of English prose is, how it proves our standards have crumbled to dust, how such decadence is a sure sign that the Rapture is nigh "et cetera, et cetera," as Yul Brynner famously intoned. My usual practice is to attempt, gently, to correct the impression that such despair is bound to the era in which we live by summoning examples of past outrage, from Jonathan Swift onward.

Sometimes, though, when my defense are down, I find myself consumed by the very fury I seek to dispel in others. Today the loss of control was provoked by a story posted on the website of a local Tucson broadcaster, from which I will quote the most troubling paragraphs:
At 7:50 this morning the boy and his sister were dropped off at the Kids Village Preschool by their mother's boyfriend. The child told the officer, "He said he walked out of the big door out front, the big tall door."

Police say the child walked about three blocks down an alley and got to a main road when a Good Samaritan spotted the child as he tried to cross Speedway during rush hour.

The Good Samaritan buys the child a soft drink and uses the payphone to call police. Officer Brown says the child was hot and sweaty.

"He was very talkative, very friendly didn't seem to have a care in the world," says Brown.

The child was taken home, just a few blocks from the Circle K.
Unless this is a transcription of speech that has not been properly denoted as such, the tense shifts here constitute a truly egregious failure to edit copy with care. Then again, given the state of contemporary journalism, I wouldn't be surprised if the story went straight to the website without being scrutinized by a second pair of eyes. If that's the case, though, the burden of responsibility falls on the writer. Then again, given the sequence of events that this story haphazardly suggests, perhaps an added layer of confusion was in order.
Tags: language, media

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