Language-involved Blog Post

July 15, 2016
Posted by Jay Livingston

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

The simple active-voice sentence is good reporting. It tells you who did what.

There are worse ways of saying it.

Last September, McSweeney’s published a piece by Vijith Assar – “An Interactive Guide to Ambiguous Grammar (here – that riffed through increasingly mealy-mouthed formulations of the fox and dog. One of the last versions was:

A quick brown fox and a lazy dog were involved in a jumping-related incident.

It sounds ridiculous, but it also sounds familiar. That’s what satire does. It makes you aware of inanities (and worse) that you have often seen but not noticed or thought about, so that in the future (or as we say now, “going forward”) you cannot miss them.

Today, I clicked on a link to a WaPo article from July 11 (here) about the numbers of Blacks and Whites shot and killed by police. Like most journalistic accounts, it begins with a single case. The third sentence says, “When [the police] tried to pull [the driver] over, the 19-year-old led police to a nearby gas station and then exited his car.” The story continues with a quote from the police department.

“The driver then turned towards officers with one hand concealed behind his back, and told officers he hated his life,” the Fresno police department said in a statement. “As he continued to advance towards officers, an officer-involved shooting occurred.”

No quick brown foxes in the Fresno PD.

1 comment:

Caleb said...

Thank you for decoding the rhetoric. I've been interested to read more about this as it happens often in the news.