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5 Comments

  • I certainly would never write ‘We were delayed due to traffic’, not so much because I’m a hardliner on the subject of ‘due to’ – I’m perfectly happy with David Sedaris’s use of it – but because in that particular example it would surely be better simply to say ‘We were delayed by [the] traffic’.

    Of course, I may be being inconsistent here, but I prefer not to analyse too closely! Hasn’t it got something to do with ‘the reason … is because’ being ‘wrong’ and ‘the reason … is that’ being ‘right’?

    I’m now seventy, by the way, which I see as giving me extra authority, hoho.

  • A lot of peeves are about words/phrases being used as “the wrong part of speech”.

    This is such a common part of English usage that the peevers just show an ignorance of hows English is actually used.. I am particularly struck that anyone can still complain about nouns being used as verbs.

    And I’m 80 and even more willing to accept new usages than I was when I was younger, and fascinated by the way the whole rhythm of English has changed in my lifetime.

  • Not so much the “due to” as its “hanging” feel in “due to his … I always thought” or conflict between “his” and “I”. Still find such things disturbing in considered prose.

  • Harry: Better, perhaps – certainly simpler and more direct. But in practice we don’t always need (or get the chance) to hone our syntax to the degree we might like, and due to is a popular and available construction.

    Bev: Hear, hear! It’s striking how much hostility there is towards conversion, given how productive a process it is. If English didn’t rely on it so much it wouldn’t be nearly so robust a language. In an old Sentence first post about linguistic doom-mongering, I speculated on why people use language “as a hook on which to hang their worries about an uncertain future”: I think one reason language change disturbs people is because they see in it a reflection of genuinely disturbing changes in society. More power to you for seeing past that and finding language change unthreatening and intrinsically interesting.

    Ed: That’s fair enough. If the construction jars or is potentially ambiguous, I would prefer to reword. But I think we often pass over such usages without noticing them.

  • Oh Ed, that ambiguity argument is hopeless. English is a profoundly ambiguous language. Small example: three word noun phrases are almost always ambiguous: compare [pink [fire extinguisher]] and [[electrical fire] extinguisher]. But there could be a pink fire or an electrical extinguisher.
    It’s at its feeblest in justifying genitive apostrophes.