Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday Word Miscellany

Saw this in Paul Krugman’s NY Times column today:

Discussing the causes of that crisis, Mr. Summers pointed to things that the crisis countries lacked — and that, by implication, the United States had. These things included "well-capitalized and supervised banks" and reliable, transparent corporate accounting.

The lack of suspensive hyphenation caught my attention. I would have written "well-capitalized and -supervised banks.” I think a hyphen before "supervised" could have added just a tad more clarity.

Saw this in a U.S.News & World Report story on Yahoo today:

Research by Atlee Burpee, the world’s biggest seed company, found that $50 of seeds and fertilizer can yield $1,250 worth of produce.

Setting aside the incredible fun that is the name Atlee Burpee (finally, a name for my first-born, should such a first ever be born), what interested me here was “$1,250 worth of produce.” In non-numeric form, a structure like this is often considered a “quasi-possessive,” which calls for an apostrophe. “You can grow hundreds of dollars’ worth of produce.” But “$1,250’s worth of produce” would be (most would agree) silly. I never noticed that before.

From a Los Angeles Times headline this morning on an article about job hunting:

It’s still all about whom you know.

Whom? Really? What would I have done if I were the editor making the call on “who” versus “whom” here? I’m not sure. Yes, newspapers are held to a sometimes unreasonably high standard on using “whom,” but the expression “It’s who you know” is such a popular figure of speech that “whom” seems awkward here.

I suspect that, after agonizing over it a bit, I would have gone for “It’s all who you know” – then spent the next day letting all my calls go to voice mail.

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