Pronoun Mistakes #4: TV Talk

Careless grammar in run-of-the-mill television shows no longer surprises me, but I’m still startled when pronoun errors crop up in quality productions, spoken by characters assumed to be educated. Here are some gleanings from my recent viewing.

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The Language Police

Lovers of language and literature, especially those with children or grandchildren still in Grades K-12, will find The Language Police by education historian Diane Ravitch riveting, revelatory, and extremely disturbing.

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Rode and Road

An article on the sports page of my morning paper quoted the owner of the winning horse praising the jockey: Victor road him really well.

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Sleight of Hand

A reader asks: What exactly is meant by “sleight of hand” and how do you pronounce “sleight”?

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Homogeneous vs. Heterogeneous

A reader comments: I have seen and heard the word homogeneous used to refer to a multiracial or multicultural society, whereas I would have used heterogeneous. Surely homogeneous describes an “unmixed” group of people or things?

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Spelling and Pronunciation

Posts on the topic of pronunciation usually provoke a lot of attention, often drawing heated defenses of one pronunciation over another and suggesting that only one can ever be “correct.” In fact, “correct” pronunciation differs from century to century and from region to region.

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Unctuous, A Humpty Dumpty Word

A reader alerted me to a new use of the word unctuous that has escaped me until now: When did “unctuous” start having a positive connotation?  Watch any cooking show lately and it’s likely you’ll hear someone describe a dish as “unctuous,” as if that’s a good thing. Many celebrity chefs seem to now use the word to suggest a dish is rich, smooth, or maybe even creamy.”

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Annual and Anniversary

A non-native English speaker wonders about this use of the word anniversary in a business communication.

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Little and Small

As adjectives, little and small are often interchangeable, but sometimes one will not do in place of the other.

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A Centenarian is Probably Not a Centurion

A reader was startled when a television announcer misused the word centurion: Perhaps one of your columns could cover the meanings of “centurion” and “centenarian.” A news anchor on KTTC-TV, Rochester, Minn., just announced “There is a new centurion in Clear Lake, Iowa.” (This “new centurion” is a woman celebrating her 100th birthday. A centenarian centurion?)

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