Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for November 16th, 2007

Newspaper allegedly gets it wrong

Posted by metaphorical on 16 November 2007

The Daily News is far from the only paper to get this wrong, but it gets it more starkly wrong than most — right in the headline:

Barry Bonds indicted for allegedly lying under oath

You can look at the indictment, and as you might expect, the grand jury doesn’t charge Bonds with allegedly lying under oath, it charges him with lying under oath.

Take Count Five:

Barry Lamar Bonds, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly, did corruptly endeavor to influence, obstruct, and impede the due administration of justice, by knowingly giving Grand Jury testimony that was intentionally evasive, false, and misleading….

The Daily News, in short, is commiting the sin of the double-qualifier. Either is correct:

. The grand jury indicted Bonds for x

. Bonds allegedly did x

but to put them together is to end up with something false, if not simply absurd.

Similarly, there’s a 20% chance of showers, and it might rain, but not, “there might be a 20% chance of rain.”

It is, in fact, a dead certainty that it might rain. And Bonds was absolutely indicted, not allegedly, for absolutely lying under oath, which he allegedly did.

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