The word | Tom Camfield

Tom Camfield
Posted 5/17/23

“COUPLE OF,” AS ABOVE, IS ANOTHER source of some argument. A for-instance is the writer of a fiction book under the Tom Clancy name that I recently read. He writes about “a …

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The word | Tom Camfield


“COUPLE OF,” AS ABOVE, IS ANOTHER source of some argument. A for-instance is the writer of a fiction book under the Tom Clancy name that I recently read. He writes about “a couple” this and “a couple” that — and treats the “of” with total disdain. He apparently wants us all to follow his lead. However, it doesn’t ring quite right to me. I’ll stick with ”a pair OF shoes,” "a yoke OF oxen,” “two OF a kind,” “a couple OF the same,” “a trio OF songbirds,” etc.

This same writer also spoke of such things as “the damn chair.” I’m well convinced that I’m correct on this one — that he should have said “damned chair,” One can “damn” (verb) a chair, at which point it comes a “damned” (adjective) chair.” No way the guy could have been tied in a “damn” chair. But I will admit they sound the same when spoken.

I’ve presumed that “apps” is just short for “applications” when used in reference to electronic devices such as cell-phones. Who has room these days for unnecessary syllables?

The other day I was browsing a column by a guy who’s been a professional writer all of his life. He said of a comic strip that it “has been around longer than me.” I believe that should read “longer than I“ (have).

I also believe that one needn’t recognize a dangling participle on sight to to raise the level of one’s writing. Just take “. . . one that I’m a sample of.” and conclude your sentence with “. . . one of whom I’m a sample.” That not only makes proper use of “whom” as an object, but also leaves conclusion of a sentence with something other than a preposition (of, to, for, etc.) looking vainly for its object.

And an early-day horse thief was “hanged,” not “hung.”

Annie Jarvis taught me to read in first grade, and Vivian Finnell taught me to spell in second grade. By 10th grade I had sacrificed a useless study hall period to take an elective typing class (the only boy in her class) from teacher Emma Pringle. Now 94, I remember them all fondly. I also was a mere sophomore in 1945 when I won the engraved medal from the local VFW post in a county-wide, all-grade competition for an essay on “How to ensure a lasting peace.”

I was still learning a lot some 45 years or so later from the late newspaper journalist, columnist, author, writer and grammarian James J. Kilpatrick. “Writing comes in grades of quality in the fashion of beer and baseball games,” he said, ”good, better, and best.” He published the book “The Writer’s Art” in 1985 and was a syndicated columnist under the same title for a number of years in The Seattle Times. We corresponded occasionally.


WITH ROOM LEFT OVER THIS WEEK, I’ll switch to a bit on guns.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

That all appears to be a single sentence, but for more than 230 years, the first half has been conveniently ignored as if it didn’t exist by conservative members of the Supreme Court such as pocket-lining Clarence Thomas (and his wife). Also conservative gun-owners about everywhere else, including the NRA. Even we Democrats have born forced into a corner somewhat — although we draw the line short of assault rifles and such . More than 13,900 people have died from gun violence already this year. There have been 184 mass shootings in 2023 alone, in shootings defined by the Gun Violence Archive as incidents in which four or more victims are shot or killed. These mass shootings have led to 248 deaths and 744 injuries.

All of which led me to read with interest the following item from the small nation of Serbia, a former part of Yugoslavia with a population of 8.6 million compared to our country’s 326.7 million.

“Serbian citizens have handed over nearly 6,000 unregistered weapons in the first three days of an amnesty period that is part of a month-long anti-gun crack-down after two mass shootings last week . . . Police have received nearly 300,000 rounds of ammunition and about 470 explosive devices during the same period . . . The effort to rid Serbia of excessive guns was launched after 17 people were killed in two shootings.”

Apparently there was little quibbling there over such things as a 230-year-old “well-regulated” militias, national guard or whatever.
And life is more valuable.