• Rectifying usage myths

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    From one of Carillo’s essays:

    “But as my two sons are quick to point out whenever we have the chance to watch those TV debates together, the body English of many of the debaters leave much to be desired . . . etc.”

    For someone who is quick to criticise others (especially the media) for subject/verb mismatches, how is it that he writes “ . . . body English leave much. . .”?
    Max Sims
    maxsims123@optunet.com.au

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    1 Comment

    1. I find it weird that although my current column is on the subject of rectifying usage myths about correlative conjunctions and appositives, you are harping on the usage of a sentence from a column of mine that dates back to February 23, 2008 or more than five years ago. What gives? Still, even if your posting is off-topic, I’ll humor you by answering the dismissive criticism that you are trying to foist ex cathedra—with no grammatical justification whatsoever—on the readers of The Manila Times.

      You ridicule my plural usage of the term “body English” in the phrase “the body English of many of the debaters leave much to be desired.” Let me remind you that by definition, “body English” is a notionally plural term that means “bodily motions made in a usually unconscious effort to influence the progress of a propelled object (as a ball).” Now, recall that in English, some subjects may be grammatically plural but notionally singular, like “news” in “This news disturbs me,” or grammatically singular but notionally plural, like “everybody” in “Everybody loves a lover.” I consider “body English” grammatically singular but notionally plural in the same vein, particularly because the phrase describes distinct “bodily motions” (plural) of “many debaters” (also plural). To consider “body English” notionally singular in that phrase would give the false impression that all those debaters were doing precisely the same “body English” or uniform set of bodily motions. That’s not the case at all, as you will find if you bother to reread that old column of mine with an unjaundiced mind. I therefore maintain that the plural verb form “leave” is the semantically correct usage for the notionally plural “body English” in that phrase.