Thursday, October 23, 2008

Not for the first time ...

As regular M&M readers know, "unprecedented" is one of those words that drives me crazy. I've managed to read right over it nearly every day for the past year or so, since I last registered my gripe, without complaint.

But my kettle boils over. After finding two instances of "unprecedented" today in the same story -- an otherwise excellent essay by Time's Joe Klein about Barack Obama -- I've decided to start a new M&M category -- unprecedented -- to track appearances of this misused word.

The rules: I won't go looking for "unprecedented" but if I run across it I'll note it here.

That's some stare decisis shit right there, so other writers should get with the program. You might have to go back to Marbury v. Madison to find a decision of such significance.

So with that, I present Exhibit A, from Klein's "Why Obama is Winning":

But the Senator from Illinois had laid down his marker: if elected President, he would be in charge. Unlike George W. Bush, who had given Petraeus complete authority over the war — an unprecedented abdication of presidential responsibility (and unlike John McCain, whose hero worship of Petraeus bordered on the unseemly) — Obama would insist on a rigorous chain of command.

And Exhibit B:

But one of the more remarkable spectacles of the 2008 election — unprecedented in my time as a journalist — was the unanimity among Democrats on matters of policy once the personality clash between Obama and Hillary Clinton was set aside.

Two unprecedenteds in one story. Not unprecedented, but not a good example.

More to come, usage geeks and fellow crabs.


kateco said...

You sir, are an unparalleled crab.

And my hero.

Rita said...

It is indeed unprecidented, to be sure!

...............but you can't take the newspaper out of an editor.