Watch Their Language | Letters | Chicago Reader

Watch Their Language 

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To whom it may concern:

(Re: "The prepositionally challenged" item in Harold Henderson's City File of October 22, 1999, which reads: "From a public-radio commercial repeatedly broadcast on WBEZ FM: 'The Chicago Tribune offers insight, perspective, and understanding to the events of Chicago and the world.'")

I see what Harold Henderson means, and applaud and thank him for drawing attention to this utterance. I, too, initially thought that the problem with this awkward sentence was the preposition to, but after seeing the words in print, I'm afraid that the problem goes deeper.

The Trib offers a lot of things: advertising space, a contract to the negotiating team of one of its unions, computerized home delivery. (OK, I buy it myself on Sundays, mostly because it offers a decent section on books and a generally interesting arts section, not to mention a free TV guide.)

Now among the abstract nouns offered by the Trib, we might agree to include "insight, perspective, and understanding." But whatever things or ideas a newspaper offers, it offers them to its readers, not to events, be they of Chicago, the world, our solar system, or for that matter, the universe.

OK, it's just a radio ad, predictably pretentious, coming from a newspaper trying so hard to come up in the world and that is glomming on to an NPR affiliate which can deliver the demographics. And I guess it sounded good to the person at the Tribune's ad agency who came up with it. It does have a certain ring to it--provided you do not require that language mean something.

I'm with Harold Henderson, resisting the willing suspension of my faculties of analysis--even during Morning Drive.

Daniel Mack-Ward

Gary, Indiana

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