Confusion of constructions

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An article in The Independent on 22 November 2008 includes this sentence:

“The US is in a sitting duck administration until Barack Obama can take office in January.”

Yesterday I heard a broadcaster say that someone would have to “pay the sacrifice”.

These are examples of the confusion of two constructions,which it is easy to do in speech, although the “sitting duck” for “lame duck” should have been removed when the writer read over what he’d written (do journalists ever do that any more, with the time pressures that they’re under?)

Many style guides now accept that “between … to” and “centre around” are acceptable English, as they are so frequently met with (the second has been around since at least the 18th century). However, surely they are no more than a confusion between(!) “between … and” and “from … to”, and “centre on” and “revolve around”, just as “pay the sacrifice” is a confusion between “pay the price” and “make a sacrifice”. I think most thoughtful English teachers would still point out to their students that this last one was muddled, so why not continue to be critical of “between … to” and “centre around”?

Today I’ve heard “stepping into a hornet’s nest”. Is that what I’m doing by raising this subject?

One Comment

  1. Reminds me of my friend who said to another friend while the two were playing basketball – “Basketball’s not a cup of cake”.

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