Magazine article Communication World

Beware Spritely and Hobgoblinic Consistency; Turn Now to Bosenmate, and Cow Testicles

Magazine article Communication World

Beware Spritely and Hobgoblinic Consistency; Turn Now to Bosenmate, and Cow Testicles

Article excerpt

A mid-year review mailed here from UBS Financial Services Inc. seized my attention for two wrong reasons. I might have squawked to the editor or even the CEO, except that first, nowhere in the brochure was I told where UBS hangs its hat: no city, no state, no country; second, paragraph number four opened with this: "As far as fixed income, (a UBS executive says) returns are likely to be ... subdued.... "

Writing in his excellent 1998 title "A Dictionary of Modern American Usage," Bryan Garner notes at as far as, "In its figurative uses, this phrase must be followed by some complement such as that's concerned, that goes, or I know--e.g.: 'As far as they're concerned, January 1, 2000, will bring enough of a hangover....'" Garner concludes his section with "as far as usually signals verbosity. Thus, instead of As far as the Navy is concerned, it's possible to save nearly half the words by writing As for the Navy...."

A short item in U.S. News & World Report (21 June) headed Saving Zelda tells us "Careless Princess Zelda has been kidnapped again--this time by a wind demon--which means no rest for the spritely hero, Link."

Watch out for spritely; most dictionaries display sprightly, defined in American Heritage IV as meaning "Full of spirit and vitality; lively; brisk." Merriam Webster's 11th Collegiate adds a culinary spin: "having a distinctly piquant taste: zesty ... a sprightly salsa...." But the noun that can mean a disembodied spirit, elf, fairy or ghost is most often spelled sprite, as in the nimble Austin Healey Sprite.

A Boston Globe columnist used part of his 10 July space to screw up some lines from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Mickey Edwards's subhead said, "Consistency is the hobgoblin...." Many others make the same misstep. But what Mr. Emerson put down some hundred and sixty years ago was "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

The Drive Buys feature in the 4 June Wall Street Journal included this comment on the new Chrysler supersized sedan: "The ... 300C carries a high degree of risk because the past couple decades' worth of big domestic four-doors have been anything but cool. …

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