Friday, April 19, 2013

Am I in a Rut?

Long time readers are probably getting a little tired of the seemingly unending stream of Steam Locomotives and other railroad related paraphernalia that have appeared here on my blog.  But the truth is that aside from the Empire State Express that I did make for myself, nearly all of the other pieces have ended up in someone else’s house or place of business.  This piece is no exception.

The same day that I got the commission for the three 20th Anniversary awards (see here) a woman that I have worked with for many years -- I’ll call her “R” -- approached me to asked if I could make a train plaque to honor her husband who died a couple of years ago.  Apparently he had worked for CSX for quite a number of years making a Railroad-related carving very appropriate.  So how could I say no?

I tried to pump her for ideas but she left all of the decisions to me.  I took the general outline of the Empire State Express -- after all, I still had all the drawings and I just love the “look” of that locomotive.  I replaced the real smoke stack with one that would have been more at home on a wood-burning locomotive and added the billowing, heart-shaped clouds of smoke.  I guess that is kind of corny and perhaps overly sentimental but I thought it added some additional meaning to the piece -- to say nothing of a nice, convenient way to hang it on the wall:--).  I shortened up the cab somewhat (it looked too big) and added “the suggestion” of an Engineer. 

I delivered the plaque early last week and asked “R” for a photo holding the plaque (part of my “charge” for the carving).  I received this photo this afternoon so here it is.  I think she liked it!

'Til Next time...Keep makin' Chips!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Another Grammar Rant

Up until now, I have been sitting back, attempting to ignore something that really bothers me.  For years, I have been content to simply vent my frustrations by yelling at the TV whenever I hear it, but no more.  I can’t take it any more.  It is time to speak up and be heard! 

My plea to the News departments of the world is, “Please stop the slaughtering of the English language on your daily Television News programs.”

I do not consider myself to be a stuffy intellectual.  Personally, I dreaded every, single, painful moment that I spent studying grammar in high school but apparently the very people who sought out a profession where they would be in the public eye (or is it "the public ear"? ),  where a touch of class might be important, chose to skip those classes entirely.   

As a population we are ever so cautious about being “politically correct” in every thing we say and write.  However, judging from what I hear during TV interviews with accident/fire scene witnesses and the not-so-occasional public official, the typical American couldn’t pick out the correct verb tense in a Police lineup.   But what troubles me the most is that, sadly, some of those on the "professional" side of the microphone do not do much better.  Daily, I hear major grammatical faux pas made by newsreaders that ring in my ears like a chunk of steel plate dropped 10 feet onto a concrete floor.

TV newscasters have, apparently, elected themselves “In Loco Parentis”.  Day after day they admonish us to:  “Wash our hands.” “Use sun-screen in the sun.”  “Dress in layers in the cold.”   “Don’t stand under a tree in a lightning storm.” But they manage to forget that people who cannot effectively communicate cannot begin to understand or operate today’s complex world. 

If TV news is really trying to be “the parent” here, then they should be responsible parents and attempt to use proper English in all of their news broadcasts.  They claim to be “professional speakers,” so they should prove it.

To demonstrate my position, here is a list of recent verbal infractions perpetrated by anonymous TV newspersons in just the past few weeks.

The use of the word Busted”

To the best of my knowledge, the word “bust” used in any other way than to describe the upper portion of the human anatomy as rendered in marble, is considered slang.  So, I was quite disturbed to hear recently that a water main “was busted open”.

Ok, I will accept that “bust”, as used to describe the capture of a felon, is now a generally excepted term.  But let’s try to exhibit a little bit of class and use “burst”, “ruptured” or even “broken” to describe water mains, and restrict the use of “busted” for criminal arrests.



Newspaper headlines have always been terse.  It is part of their mystique.  These catchy phrases grab people’s attention and conserve print space, but television headlines are typically spoken and need not be so choppy.  They should stop sounding like Tonto and try sounding a little more like Walter Cronkite (You all remember him, don’t you?).


Verb tenses

When presenting a news story, is it too much at ask that they try to get the verb tenses right or, at the very least, make them all agree.  Recently, one of the on-the-scene field reporters announced that a man was “thrown” (past tense) from his car and the car “lands” (present tense) on top of him.  I’m sure that this is, in part, a throw back to the headline legacy where newspapers tried to make the story seem more current than it was by using the present tense to make it seem as if it were happening in right front of the reader.  But the point is that the language doesn’t make sense.  “OK”, you say, “It was 6 AM, the reporter had been in the field all night and just made a mistake.”   I can understand that.  The point is we really don’t need an “absolutely, right-now” live report.  The report is only a minute or two long, so just do it over, with grammar is corrected and then air the corrected report.  They re-tape for other reasons; why not to do it right.


“Countable” Nouns vs. “Non-countable” Nouns

This next one I can’t really blame on the news media, but the news media could help correct the situation by using the expressions correctly.   The word “amount” should only be used in situations where the items in question cannot be counted.  If the items can be counted then a word like “number” should be used instead.  It is the “amount of money” or “the number of people”.  You wouldn’t say the “number of money”, so why would you say “the amount of people”?   And don’t get me started on “less” vs. “fewer”.

...I'm feeling much better, now.