Fighting the Trend

In my recent post about Harriet Tubman and Andrew Jackson, I deliberately made an error  – at least in the minds of some editors:

Many progressives are pleased that the Treasury Department decided to replace President Andrew Jackson’s picture with Harriet Tubman.

What’s the mistake? I didn’t use that of:

Many progressives are pleased that the Treasury Department decided to replace President Andrew Jackson’s picture with that of Harriet Tubman.

Here’s the reason. I hate that of. It’s clumsy, I distrust it, and I refuse to use it. I’ve lived a long life, and I have a sharp eye. I don’t recall seeing the irritating that of very much in the past. I think it’s a recent fetish, and I refuse to sign on.

(Some of you may be thinking that there’s an alternative that bypasses the problem, and you’re right: Many progressives are pleased that the Treasury Department decided to replace President Andrew Jackson’s picture with Harriet Tubman’s. That was actually my first version – but then I wouldn’t have had a jumping-off point for today’s post!)

Back to that of. Here’s a typical example that sets my teeth on edge:

The monthly condo fee in Springside is higher than that of Rosedale.

Here’s an alternative that I like better:

The monthly condo fee in Springside is higher than Rosedale’s.

But some authorities forbid this usage on the grounds that buildings are inanimate and can’t be owners. A pox on them. People use possessives that way all the time:

The building’s exits need to be clearly marked.

If objects can’t be owners, there would be no need for a possessive form of it:

My favorite blouse is missing one of its buttons.

The rules of English usage – as I never tire of saying – are created by the people who actually use the language. Don’t let anyone use a convoluted logical principle to talk you into adopting an awkward construction.

The Association Fallacy in Formal Logic

         The Association Fallacy in Formal Logic

 

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