September 21

Sink, Sank, Sunk: Story of the L.A. Times

The first people to go at newspapers when shrinkage occurs (which is quite frequent these days) are the proofreaders and copyeditors, those who are charged with making sure that correct English appears in print.

Though the Los Angeles Times is usually pretty good on the correctness front, I came across a sentence Saturday (Sept. 20) that misused a form of the verb to sink, to wit:  "Meanwhile, shares of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs sunk as investors bet they would collapse…."

I still remember from probably the third grade memorizing the base forms of this verb as "sink, sank, sunk," so without a modifying verb–and using just the simple past tense–the authors of this article could not have used sunk, though they did.

I chalk this one up to a) sloppiness and b) stupidity rather than hiring and firing policies, which, sadly, is worse than the latter.



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Posted September 21, 2008 by Gary McCarty in category "Grammar Sucks

3 COMMENTS :

  1. By Larry Hauser on

    Gary: I saw your comments when I Googled “Sink, Sank, Sunk.” I too remember from my school days the correct conjugation of verbs. And I too have seen the same misuse of “Sunk” on too many occasions in our newspapers. In this case, an article today in the St. Petersburg Times, “Rattler bites her finger, then feels her cane.” I don’t agree with you about it being a result of stupidity, but rather just plain ignorance. No doubt young people, who were schooled in our new system of never giving passing or failing grades, because to do so, might harm the self esteem of the youngster. As a result, they go into the world not knowing simple things, which quite honestly, should have been taught by the “learn by rote” methods.

    Reply
    1. By Grammar Guy (Post author) on

      I agree with you that learning by rote is the surest route to correctness in English (and many other subjects), but the educrats who teach teachers call this “kill by drill.”

      Also, how does ignorance differ from stupidity–one’s innate, the other a result of schooling?

      Reply
      1. By Vicki on

        Grammar Guy – the difference between ignorance and stupidity is this: You can get over ignorance through learning. But with the emphasis on children’s and teens’ all-important self-esteem (a false, shallow variety), a couple of generations have come through our schools until they either dropped out or went on to colleges, where they continue(d) to expect the coddling they had in the lower grades.

        I do not mean to be unfair to those primary and secondary teachers who actually teach those students who will learn. It just has seemed to me that they have been out-numbered by those who try to motivate through the use of smiley faces and stars, even for truly inferior work.

        Reply

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