Sunday, June 22, 2008

if you're scoring at home

From the Archive: May 2, 2007

remember that magic fastball I said papelbon had? well, he didn't have it tonight. no zip, as Remy pointed out, none of that last moment thwbbt, no command on any of his pitches, especially the slider, and predictable sequences. I hope he's not hurt.

and just to resurrect the broadcaster issue, I'd like to let everyone know how much Don Orsillo hurts my ears. I'm sure he's a nice guy, and he banters with Remy in a satisfactory manner, but he garbles English sentences like they were lottery ping pong balls. it hurts my ears. almost everything he says has some sort of absurd ambiguity or is a grammatical disaster.

I come replete, yes replete, with examples. tonight, for instance, he said that 'huston street is still just 23 years old'; what, he's still 23, despite turning 23 6 years ago? is he a slow ager? if what don meant was 'street's experience belies his age', he should say it in less dumb way.

also tonight, he said of mike lowell's uncharacteristically high error total that it 'is very un mike lowell like', when, i'm fairly sure, the more natural, and luckily, correct way to say that is to say 'its very unlike mike lowell.'

and he always says 'with which to work with', which, at the moment, strikes me like reading stage directions from a cue card out loud.

I mean, there's precision, and there's precision. (how's that for an epigram?) today, for example, I gave an exam in my class. a student walked in and saw that I was about to hand out the exams, and he said 'oh crap, we had a test today?' I said 'no, but we will have one shortly.'

maybe i'm getting a little pedantic on that one. but don is a broadcaster; he has an extremely high profile and desirable job, and he is paid to paint a verbal picture to complement the visual picture we see. I hardly think it is unwarranted for me to want someone to not speak the way johnny damon throws.

I have, with which I may see out-of market games. sometimes, at night, when the west coast games are on, I watch the dodgers, just to hear vin scully. he is a pure delight. he does the game alone- no color guy. He is a born storyteller and an aphorist, an astute observer of the game, with a radio voice and a sense for the dramatic. the guy has got to be in his 80s by now, and I can imagine him having been sharper calling the brooklyn dodgers, but he's still worth the price of admission alone.

and don't blame vin for saying 'behind the bag, it gets through buckner.' he just calls em how he sees em.

[Chris responded:]

Jonah, you as student of philosophy must be aware that people have been lamenting the degradation of english since before the days of Beowulf. I read a quote (which I looked for on google for about 15 minutes and couldn't find) from a philosopher several hundred years ago complaining about colloquial grammar. No one reads the king james translation now and says "these guys really had their language down!" So I choose to view don orsillo as an innovator, not deficient.

[My response:]

Although I had a fight with my dad on this issue a few weeks ago, wherein I mockingly sympathized with him by suggesting that its a profound disappointment that we still don't read cuneiform, or some other proto ur-language (I suppose that's redundant), there is something to the idea of correctness.

the back-and-forth, it seems, and I hope my brother the linguist will agree, is between whether language is normative or not; if language changes willy nilly with the times, then there's no such things as using language incorrectly. seeing it this way does, as you suggest, allow one to view Don as an innovator, an artist, really, who transforms the mundane workaday world of nouns and proper names- like 'mike lowell'- into magical adjectival flights of fancy, where how 'un-mike lowell-like' something is a quality of the events in our midst. this grammatical-cum-ontological transformation, like all great art, surely reflects the deeper reality that we in our quotidian stance fail to appreciate, unless provoked and prodded by the few great artists we are lucky enough to have among us.

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