Magazine article Communication World

The 'Curly Blond-Haired Boy' Now Has a 'Thick Head of Gray Hair.' (Proper Word Usage)

Magazine article Communication World

The 'Curly Blond-Haired Boy' Now Has a 'Thick Head of Gray Hair.' (Proper Word Usage)

Article excerpt

By way of salutatory, one asks for your observations concerning this sentence plucked from a Boston, Mass., daily paper:

"Brian Callery, a 49-year-old Canton man with a thick head of gray hair, knows that golf course employees are advised to treat customers with deference."

If the three key factors in moving real estate are (as the wise guys tell us) "location, location, location," let the fourth estate now pay attention: What the reporter presents to the reader is a thick-headed guy with gray hair. The late language-usage maven Ted Bernstein reminded his readers of this syntactic pitfall when he recounted the story of a "curly, blond-haired boy."

The man from Canton is better introduced as "a man with a head of thick, gray hair."

* From what its writer describes as "the wet coast" comes this interesting query: "Something has been bothering me for years and I wondered whether you could give me a definitive answer. My query concerns the use of...'take' and 'make' in reference to decisions, such as 'He took the decision' or 'He made the decision'. I was always taught to use 'make a decision...'. However, in news media in particular I have noticed an increasing use of 'take a decision'. It irritates me to no end every time I hear it.

"Is this just a cultural/language difference between Canada and the States or is there something I'm missing?"

My response to nine-year IABC member Mairi Welman, who is director of communications for Mainframe Entertainment Inc., Vancouver, B.C., said "It does appear that 'take' a decision is more likely to appear in British lexicons than in U.S. versions: On page 360 of my British English, A to Zed (Facts on File Publications, 1987) by Norman W. Schur, one will read at take that take a decision means the same as make a decision. [One must decide whether one is on the take or on the make.] My Shorter Oxford English Dictionary shows on p. 3207 at Take '45 vb. tr. Reach or make (a decision, resolution, etc.)....'

"Finally, the third edition of my American Heritage Dictionary (a mid-1990s publication) says on p. 1829 at take '23. To make or perform: Many crucial decisions were taken as the path of the hurricane was plotted.'

"It looks as if 'take a decision' may be gaining some pop stature, but absent compelling dissent why not stay with 'make a decision'? More people will recognize it, and none will stop reading and ask 'I wonder why she chose to say take?'"

* Ms. …

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