Thursday, February 24, 2011


Reading this piece about Obama manning up over Libya, I had to get my nit on.

Obama is quoted as saying:
The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable.

This is all too common these days: a writer or speaker will use a singular verb with a compound subject. Because the two things, suffering and bloodshed, are yoked together, Obama feels they are one singular subject. This is incorrect in English, of course, and he should have used "are", as he continued to do with another compound subject in the same sentence:

So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters

That this construction is wrong can easily be demonstrated by replacing the nouns with proper nouns, thus:

*John and Mary is outrageous...

which is quite clearly wrong.

The article was in any case poorly subbed. It's clearly American agency copy that some poor sod plonked into the page with barely a second look. This is apparent because "neighborhoods" is misspelled and in a couple of places, the phrasing is infelicitous and a good sub would have fixed it even if they were doing a quick runthrough.


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