SNOOT (n) (highly colloq) is this reviewer's nuclear family's nickname à clef for a really extreme usage fanatic, the sort of person whose idea of Sunday fun is to look for mistakes in Safire's column's prose itself. This reviewer's family is roughly 70 percent SNOOT, which term itself derives from an acronym, with the big historical family joke being that whether S.N.O.O.T. stood for "Sprachgefühl Necessitates Our ongoing Tendance" or "Syntax Nudniks of Our Time" depending on whether or not you were one.
David Foster Wallace, "Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage" (Harpers Magazine, April 2001) n. 3.
"The theory is that parents giving their time helps everyone."
Where's the help coming from, parents or giving? If it's the parents directly, then helps ought to be help. If it's the giving that's doing good - and this seems the better reading - then parents ought to be parents'. Writer: Clyde Haberman, "Mothers With A Message Get Involved," New York Times, April 7, 2001 at B1.
"This breadth of
experience, however, provides a stark contrast to Michael Bloomberg, a
first-time candidate who looms as Mr. Badillo's rich and formidable opponent
in the city's first real Republican mayoral primary in a dozen years. "
This breadth of experience and Michael Bloomberg do not make a proper contrast. What's missing, of course, is that of immediately before Mr. Bloomberg's name. (Writer: Editorial Page Editors, "Mr. Badillo's Fourth Mayoral Race," New York Times, May 8, 2001.)
"I would have liked to
have let my father off the hook when he landed on St. James Place for the
second time and went bankrupt, really I would."
Just as many speakers, uncertain of their French, drop the finale se in Vichyssoise, so many writers heap on an extra helping of auxiliaries whenever venturing a past conditional. While would have liked to have let is not ungrammatical - redundancy rarely is - there is usually no need to establish an anterior past. Writers ought to make a choice between the two preferable constructions, each of which means something quite different: I would have liked to let or I would like to have let. (The latter carries a connotation of intensified, Monday-morning-quarterback regret.) Writer: James Gorman, "A Rite That Bonds the Generations," New York Times, June 22, 2001 at E34.
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