Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Passive voice correctly characterized in the media!

Numerous linguabloggers, especially at the Log, have spent a lot of time on what Geoffrey Pullum (in the link just given) reasonably calls a "campaign to get journalists to stop using the term 'passive' in its grammatical sense when they have no idea what it means." The blunder is so common that I was taken aback this morning to read this in a discussion of the Iowa Caucus results:
Mr. Romney eliminated Rick Perry from the nomination contest. Of course, Mr. Romney got a lot of help from Mr. Perry himself. Maybe we should use the passive voice — Mr. Perry was eliminated from the nomination contest.
YES. That is actually the passive voice. Of course, the passage comes from Nate Silver of FiveThiryEight, who actually seems to know actual stuff, like numbers. If anybody's gonna recognize a passive, it's probably him.

I doubt that this will cheer Pullum, who's in deep on this battle, but I'm encouraged to see that it is not impossible for someone to refer to 'passive voice' in the media in a way that is consistent with how people who actually study things like the passive voice use the term.

Image from here, from the Village Voice.

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