George Will’s current Newsweek column

George Will’s current Newsweek column is very serious; it raises, without answering, the question whether human nature can easily be molded to evil ends. My comment on his article is frivolous by comparison. If you read the column carefully, you will note that in the sixth paragraph, it says “lay” where it obviously should say “lie.” It is inconceivable that Will does not know the difference between a transitive and an intransitive verb. The only explanation for this grammatical error is that a Newsweek editor ignorantly revised Will’s text to make it incorrect. There is precedent for this. Some years ago, a Twin Cities sportswriter, writing about a Twins game, said that the Twins were spraying line drives around the field like “vintage Olivas”–an obvious reference for those Twins fans who remember Tony Oliva, a great hitter (and Cuban refugee) whose ruined knees deprived him of a spot in the Hall of Fame. Anyway, an editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune had apparently never heard of Oliva, notwithstanding the fact that Oliva had until recently been a local sports hero, so he assumed that the text represented a typographical error. The article, as it appeared in the Strib, described the Twins as hitting like “vintage olives.” Utterly nonsensical, but a word the editor had heard of. This is, as noted above, a minor if not frivolous point in the context of Will’s column, but it is a not insignificant fact that magazines like Newsweek are now hiring editors so ignorant that they do not know the difference between “lie” and “lay.” This is an affront to all of the spinster English teachers of generations gone by who made us diagram sentences and actually learn grammar (Miss Klock, I salute you). More important, it is a reflection of the fact that “mainstream” media are increasingly incompetent and irrelevant. Those who want to learn turn to the internet, and especially the blogosphere. May the last illiterate Newsweek (and Time) editor turn out the light.

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