"The Careful Communicator" ~ A collection of grammatical misadventures!

This posting is the first step in a leisurely stroll through skillful English usage.  Over the years I have collected an odd assortment of grammatical misadventures, English language faux pas, verbal slips and communication oddities.  I share them in the hope that they may prove both edifying and entertaining.  I begin with my favorite.

BETWEEN YOU AND I” – To the trained ear, this construction is roughly equivalent to fingernails being dragged across a blackboard.  One can only assume that, as children, those who speak thus must have been chastised for saying, “You and me went to town.”  Having been so chastised, they became gun shy of “me” when used in conjunction with “you and.”  They have become guilty of over refinement. Between is a preposition, and the pronouns that follow it should be in the objective case.  “I” is the subjective case, i.e., it is the subject of a sentence or clause. “I threw the ball.”  “You” can be either subjective or objective. “You went to town.”  “He hit the ball to you.”  “Me” is the objective case and is always used as the object of  prepositions, e.g., “to me;” “for me;” with me;” “toward me;” and “after me.”  The correct construction with  “between”  is “between you and me.”  For those who have not already been irreparably damaged by excessive exposure to TV sportscasters and sitcoms, I offer the following litmus test for all prepositional phrases other than “between.” Try the sentence without “you and” after the preposition and see how it sounds.  The correct form becomes starkly obvious.  We would never say, “He threw the ball to you and I.”  Or, “ She came to town with you and I.”   The preposition “between” is slightly more difficult because by definition it denotes more than one person.  Without the “you and” we can’t use “me” but have to use a plural, which is “us.”  “Us,’ just like “me” is in the objective case. Enjoy.

THE CAREFUL COMMUNICATOR #2 AFFECT, EFFECT – Despite their quite different meanings, these words are often confused. Each can serve as a verb.  Each can serve as a noun. As a verb, affect means to influence, or have an effect on. The failing economy adversely affects many people. As a verb, effect means to bring about a result, to accomplish, to execute.   The prescribed medicine effected a cure in the patient.  As a noun, affect has a narrow psychological meaning, i.e., an expressed or observed emotional response or state. The psychologist noticed that after the patient’s session, there was a marked change in his affect. As a noun, effect  is the result or consequence of a producing agency or cause. Try this mnemonic device: “The psychiatrist was deeply affected by the patient’s mental disorder and set about to effect a cure. The medication he prescribed had the desired effect and dramatically altered the patient’s affect.”  Enjoy.

--  Despite journalistic usage, jurist is not synonymous with judge. A jurist is merely one versed in the law. Therefore, although a judge  is, or should be a jurist,  a jurist is not necessarily a judge.

ATTORNEY/LAWYER -An attorney  is a person legally appointed or retained to transact business for another, usually in a specific matter or matters. Bill Jones was designated to act as Ms. Smith's attorney for signing real estate closing documents. (The paper imbuing the attorney with authority to transact business for another is a power of attorney.)   A lawyer is a person trained in the law and whose profession is to provide legal advice and assistance to clients. Jack Wilson was the lawyer hired to represent Ms. Adams in her lawsuit. Attorneys are not necessarily lawyers, although they may be, i.e., a lawyer serving in the stead of another in matters of law.  Strictly speaking, a lawyer  is an attorney only when he has a client. Attorney is technically proper only when the context denotes or implies the existence of a client. Sam Spade was attorney for Jane Doe -- not Same Spade is a prominent attorney in Orlando.  The appellation attorney at law is either an expression of optimism by a lawyer or an announcement that she has procured gainful employment. Enjoy.

REMAND BACK - This is a redundancy, e.g., "The Fifth District Court of Appeal remanded the case back to the trial court."  Remand means to send back.  Omit the back.

IMPLY/INFER - In a recent e-mail Richard Lord implied that much confusion exists regarding the use of imply and infer. From his message I inferred that this would be a good subject for The Careful Communicator.  Imply means to say indirectly or suggest.  Infer  means to deduce or conclude from the evidence or situation.  The most common mistake is to use infer when imply  is meant. "On the witness stand the witness said that he had not meant by his testimony to infer that the car had been speeding."  Sometimes, due to  an ambiguous context,  it is impossible to tell whether infer is being used correctly or incorrectly. "Just because I entered his house illegally, are you inferring that I 'm a burglar?" HELPFUL HINT:  The implier is always the pitcher.  The inferrer is always the catcher.

Howard R. Marsee

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