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.

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.”)

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.

You don’t really need to know

Don’t you get insulted when a writer “talks down” to you? I know I do! I hate it when a writer uses a vocabulary that is so unsophisticated that even a rhesus monkey could understand it. I lose patience when the simplest terms are explained in excruciating detail. I can’t stand it when the writer has to torture the language just so it’s grammatically correct.

If you’re like me, then you’ll enjoy reading this article on Yahoo! News! This writer is so sure that you’re a member in good standing of Mensa that he doesn’t bother to insure that pronouns have actual antecedents (even if he knew what an antecedent was):

drunk news 1

He knows you don’t care if he drops the hyphen from the name of a newspaper. (It’s the Press-Citizen, but who really cares?) When you read that 2 AM is in the morning, you know he didn’t include that redundancy for you:

drunk news 2

It’s not often that you read something by a professional writer that contains a grammatical gaffe like the incorrect past tense of a common verb. OK, so it is often, if you’re reading an article by a Yahoo! employee and the article reads like the writer had drunk one too many Bud Lights:

drunk news 3

But that’s OK! It’s just a verb and you knew what he meant, right? And the missing hyphen (again) in Press-Citizen is no biggie. And you don’t have to know what PBT stands for, unless you’re a serious alcoholic, then you already know it’s short for preliminary breath test.

Wouldn’t you want to read about Chad Harvey while enjoying a helpful picture of someone named Matt Harvey? I know I would. Perhaps Matt Harvey is Chad Harvey’s brother. Or father. Or uncle. Or next-door neighbor, who looks enough like Chad to stand in for him in the article:

drunk news 4

The writer has enough confidence in your mental acuity that he doesn’t have to tell you what a BAC is. Heck, he doesn’t even have to form its plural correctly; he’s sure you won’t mind if he throws an apostrophe in there. (By the way, for you Mennonites and others who shun alcohol, BAC stands for blood alcohol content. Or Bank of America Corp.)

Finally, when you think things couldn’t get worse, the writer does not disappoint:

drunk news 5

Imagine not knowing where to put the correlative conjunction not only…but also. Imagine not knowing that the partner of not only is but also. But you know that. You would have written:

to have survived not only driving while intoxicated, but also the punishment they inflicted on their bodies.

or:

to not only survive driving while intoxicated, but also survive the punishment they inflicted on their bodies.

But writing grammatically correct sentences is just patronizing your readers.

Where are the dog’s digs?

A dog’s digs can be the giant bed a Labrador sleeps on or the doghouse in the backyard. But what the writer for Yahoo! Shine meant was “dogs dig”:

dogs dig shine

That’s the kind of mistake you might see in a third grader’s homework, but not in a professionally written headline — unless that headline is on Yahoo!.

No bones about it

I’m gonna make no bones about my opinion of this excerpt from Yahoo! Sports‘ “Prep Rally”: It sucks.

vertebrae sports pr

The writer clearly doesn’t know that vertebrae is the plural of vertebra. As far as I know, human beings have only one seventh vertebra, not multiple seventh vertebrae.

Where are the Duchess of Cambridge’s ankles?

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is a popular subject in magazines, newspapers, TV, and the Internet. Millions of people around the world read about her every day, but few realize that the duchess has a physical abnormality. Now the good folks at Yahoo! Shine are letting the world in on the duchess’s little secret:

poppies 1

poppies 6

I was shocked to learn that the duchess’s ankles are actually located in the general vicinity of what would be knees for the rest of the world’s population.

The red coat (notice that red isn’t a proper noun here?) that the duchess is wearing looks like it’s knee-length to me. Could it be that the writer doesn’t know her knees from her ankles? And if the coat is actually fastened with three poppies, they must be under the placket, because I can’t see them. What I do see are three poppies fastened to the coat.


Of course, we shouldn’t expect a writer who doesn’t know when something is fastened to a coat from something that fastens a coat to know the niceties of English, like how to form the plural of a number. Most folks know that it doesn’t include an apostrophe:

poppies 2

There are some words missing here, which shouldn’t be surprising:

poppies 3

Does the duchess have a tiny collection of purses or a collection of tiny purses? If it’s the latter, the writer could have helped us out with a hyphen: her tiny-purse collection.

poppies 4

I can’t imagine how the duchess was spotted donning sheer stockings. Were there paparazzi hanging around her hotel suite, peering in a window as the poor woman was pulling them up over her ankles? A more likely scenario: This writer, whose vocabulary is a bit wobbly, thinks that donning means “wearing.” It does not. It is the act of putting on clothing. It refers to what you’re doing as you get dressed, not what you’re wearing after you get dressed.

Just to prove that Yahoo! writers can misspell names in more than one medium, the article ends with this video, which includes the misspelling of LK Bennett in its title:

poppies 5

I didn’t watch the video. Maybe it shows Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, donning a red coat, which comes down to the tops of her shoes, and which she then fastens with buttons shaped like poppies. If you watch it, let me know.

Make up your mind

Unable to decide if the apostrophe goes before or after the S in the plural teens, the clever writer for Yahoo! Shine places it before and after an S:

teenss shine

That seems to be a common solution to the question, “Where does the apostrophe go?” Whether it’s brothers, ads, legends, or any other plural noun, the folks at Yahoo! have no idea how to correctly make it possessive.

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