Friday, January 18, 2008

Hey TIME magazine, it's Christopher REEVE!

Popping a Forehead Vein

over Plurals

or, Hey TIME magazine,

it's Christopher REEVE

Somebody, quick, hand me a dictionary so I can commence slamming my head against it. Make it a Webster's. Unabridged. And then clear out of the way because when I regain consciousness I'm going to start making like Captain Caa-aa-aa-ve Ma-a-a-an and start looking for unsuspecting heads with which to connect.

What has stoked my ire and fire? What has brought out my inner bludgeoner? Grammar, that's what. Particularly those sticky words we were taught to add s to, or es, or ies, depending on what is called for by the English language and what our cramped little minds can bear to remember. Or, more specifically, the words that already have an s at the end, or didn't to begin with, and don't want or need any changing.

Excuse me a moment while I grab a towel and stop myself frothing at the mouth.

So who am I aiming my terrible swift dictionary at today? Let's (contraction of let us, kids) start with sportscasters, shall we? Those denizens of the broadcast booth, those practioners of the play-by-play, those frail-as-a-beaver-gummed-sapling fellows when it comes to exhibiting a splinter of intelligence about team names and how they take a plural or possessive.

I don't know how many times in the past couple playoff weekends (and every game I tuned into during the regular season), I choked on my beer whenever I heard a reference to the "Brown 45-yard line" or the "Bengal bench" or the "Steeler sideline", etc., only to hiss back at the TV, It's the BROWNS' 45-yard-line, BENGALS bench, STEELERS sideline!

Team names -- or most of them, before the recent rush of Heat and Avalanche and Jazz and Lightning and Magic -- are plural. They start out that way and they stay that way. There is no Pittsburgh Pirate team. There is no Denver Bronco stadium. They are the Pirates, the Broncos. Players take cues from the Cubs' manager, or Giants head coach Squinty Yellsalot. Oh, I suppose a player could be a Cub, or a Giant. But you are a Brewers fan, a Browns backer. Things get a little more irksome when we try to refer to a player of the Red Sox as a "Red Sock." He is? What cycle do you wash him on? Better to just say Red Sox player. Someone is not a "Diamondback pitcher" because there is no Arizona Diamondback team. They are the Arizona Diamonbacks.

Gah. What the Sam Wyche??!!? (Former Bengals coach Sam Wyche, by the way. NOT former "Bengal" coach.)

Second example to get my forehead vein pulsing, though I admit to being charmed by it, and I don't really pay it much attention, unless the elongated, lilting a's are getting on my nerves. Chicagoans LOVE their superfluous plurals. But, hey: Chicago, you will survive without your neighborhood "Jewels" grocery store. If, somehow, "Soldiers" Field is incinerated in a localized apocalypse, football will still be played along Lake Michigan. It's because the grocery store is Jewel and the football stadium is Soldier Field. There are more examples, but as I said, I tend to give this one a free pass until you start sounding like the Superfans on SNL.

Final teeth-grinding example: Today, I was flipping through the mind and body special issue of Time, and came across this entry in their feature on celebrity couples: "Dana and Christopher Reeves." Hey, maybe the copy editor was thinking of his or her golden childhood, watching George Reeves star as Superman, but the 1970s version of the Man of Steel (my childhood) was and always will be Christopher REEVE.

Or maybe the copy editor is just from Chicago.

OK, I'm gonna go shut myself in an isolation booth somewhere.

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