Jean Cries “Uncle”

Some of you may not be familiar with the “cry uncle” idiom. It means “to admit defeat.” Yes, I am defeated.

During our unwelcome visit from Hurricane Irma last weekend, Charlie and I had no TV and no Internet. I passed the time by rereading one of my favorite books: Watch Your Language by Theodore Bernstein. He was the head copyeditor for the New York Times, and I am indebted to his books for rounding out my knowledge of English usage.

I stretched out on our bed and read – stopping every now and then to read the funniest bits to Charlie – until I came to this, on page 92:

Although, now that this subject has come up, there is a recent president of Columbia whose syntax falls a trifle short of perfection.  FRAGMENT

There was a loud crash as the universe came down around my ears.

I hate that although construction. It’s wrong, dammit. Any idea that starts with although is a fragment…plus you’re supposed to know better than to put a comma after although.

Here are two ways to write this sentence correctly:

However, now that this subject has come up, there is a recent president of Columbia whose syntax falls a trifle short of perfection.  CORRECT

But now that this subject has come up, there is a recent president of Columbia whose syntax falls a trifle short of perfection.  CORRECT

I’ve always assumed that this careless use of although was a recent development. But there it was, in a book by one of my favorite writers…back in 1958.

And the outrage didn’t end there. The very next day the universe mocked me with this Dustin comic strip:

Uncle. I give up. Although, I’ve vowed never to use that construction myself in this blog.

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