Amongst your words, that is the most pretentious

The new site Yahoo! Style may be setting some records in the number and severity of errors that it displays every day. These errors from a recent article are among the most amateurish on the site:

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The word amongst is a synonym for among. Is it wrong? Not exactly, but it’s just not as common in the U.S. as it is in other English-speaking countries. And Americans aren’t all that fond of the word. The OxfordWords blog sums up the sentiment of many Americans:

[M]any authorities (such as Garner’s Modern American Usage) and language blogs state that, in US English, amongst is now seen as old-fashioned, and even ‘pretentious’. If you are a US English speaker, therefore, and you don’t want to come across to your audience as out of date or, heaven forbid, linguistically la-di-da, then it’s advisable to opt for among.

As for the other error in that paragraph, I believe there’s a mismatch between the subject designer and the verb, which should be tells. I can’t be sure since there appears to be some extra words, but I think the writer promises to let us know what the designer is listening to. That is simply a lie. The interview that follows does not include any such info.

The interviewer was clearly in the dark about Josef Albers’ “Interaction of Color,” which is a book. The designer was also influenced by the Blaschkas, a father and son, and not just one misspelled person:

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It would have been nice (and expected from a real site with any integrity) to check the references made by the person being interviewed. But this is Yahoo!, and journalistic integrity is not a priority.

Also not a priority? Punctuation. At least, correct punctuation is not a priority. Maybe someone will tell us about the process the writer has for distinguishing between a question and an imperative sentence:

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It would still be wrong

Even if the writer for Yahoo! Movies had remembered to put the hyphen in run-in, the word would still be wrong:

run in omg 1

A run-in is a quarrel or argument; it’s not a casual meeting.

But aside from that, what mistakes did the writer make? There’s some problem with familiar faces, because the writer implies that Lindsay Lohan and Tina Fey share the same face:

run in omg 2

This writer really has issues with punctuation. She puts an erroneous apostrophe is Wednesdays and puts a semicolon within quotation marks. In U.S. English, two punctuation characters never, ever go before a closing quotation mark: a colon and a semicolon.

Plum’s! Watermelon’s! Smith’s!

Really? Did someone working for Yahoo! Celebrity really think that this is an acceptable plural of the surname Smith?

smiths apost omg

That’s the kind of error you might expect to find on a hand-written sign at a local grocery  (Plum’s! Watermelon’s!), not at one of the busiest sites on the Web.

A fatal mistake

Whether they’re trying to spell prix fixe, trompe l’oeil, or coup d’état, if the word is French (even if it’s well-established in the English-speaking world), Yahoo! writers are sure to screw it up. This time I’m indebted to Yahoo! Celebrity for showing us that some writers can’t quite get it right:

femme fatales omg

The expression femme fatale is composed of two French words: femme for woman and fatale for deadly. As is common in French, the adjective must match the noun it modifies in number (that is, if the noun is plural, the adjective is, too). So the plural of femme fatale is femmes fatales — both words get an S. De rien.

Their what?

What faced foreclosure? I’m reading this on the Yahoo! front page and can’t figure out if the DeCesare’s dog faced foreclosure or something else faced foreclosure:

fp plural apost

I guess there’s another possibility: The writers for yahoo.com don’t know how to form the plural of a name. If the name doesn’t end in S, you form the plural by adding an S, not an apostrophe and an S.

Uncommon phenomena

Here’s what happens when you try to use fancy words without heading to a dictionary first: You can look as foolish and pretentious as the writer for Yahoo! Shine who pounded out this:

phenomena shine

If the writer really meant a single occurrence or event, she should have used phenomenon, which is singular. Its plural is phenomena (although some dictionaries allow phenomenons in informal, nonscientific writing). It’s like criteria (the plural of criterion) and automata (the plural of automaton, though automatons is also acceptable).

Also, if you don’t know if a word like, um, say, maybe normcore is a proper noun and you decide to treat it both with and without a capital letter, you look more than foolish — you look careless and a bit dim.

SEALs the deal

It looks like two people wrote this teaser on the Yahoo! front page and they couldn’t agree on the plural of SEAL:

fp seals

A SEAL is a member of the United States Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land team. The plural, according to the U.S. Navy’s website, is SEALs.

Hanging out with the Bates

The only way this sentence on the home page Yahoo! TV makes sense is if the family’s name is Bate:

bates tv

But it’s not. The family’s surname is Bates. If you hang with them, you hang with the Bateses. (Since Bateses is a little difficult to decipher — even though it is the correct plural — a better solution might be to use “the Bates family.”)

Just don’t use it

If you’re unsure how to use an apostrophe, just don’t use it. If you’re wrong, you’ll look as ill-educated as the folks at Yahoo!.

You wouldn’t want to make the mistake of putting the apostrophe in the wrong place (as it is here on yahoo.com), would you?

fp 80s apost

If you don’t know that the apostrophe goes first (in ’80s) to show the omission of the 19, then don’t use one.

You’ll just embarrass yourself if you think you can form the plural of a noun with an apostrophe like this gaffe from Yahoo! News:

indians apost news

and this one from Yahoo! Movies:

coens apost movies

And I would be embarrassed for you if you used an apostrophe in a verb that isn’t a contraction:

celebrates apost news

Unsure about your punctuation abilities? Get some help. Just don’t ask anyone who works for Yahoo! for advice.

I’m not a doctor

I’m not a doctor — I don’t even play one on TV — but I know enough about human anatomy to question this claim on Yahoo! Sports:

vertebrae sports

I didn’t recognize the term dorsal vertebrae because the current term is thoracic vertebrae. The term dorsal vertebrae has been obsolete for a long, long time. (If you want to be nitpicky, all vertebrae are dorsal since the term refers to the back.)

Anyhoo, I guess we shouldn’t expect a sports writer to be concerned about such things, although I would expect an editor to know the difference between a singular and a plural noun. I don’t know much about Latin, but I know enough to recognize that vertebrae is the plural of vertebra.

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