Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Bad Grammar of Tragedy

One of my pet peeves is politicians and news reporters who consistently torture the language in times of tragedy. The Minneapolis bridge collapse serves as but the latest sad reminder.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families.”

This cliché contains two errors.

First, our thoughts do not really go anywhere. They either stay in our head, or, if they go anywhere, they “go out” to God. They certainly cannot “go out” to the victims and their families.

Ah, you say, but this is just an idiom. Well, actually it’s not. Unless we corrupt the language enough to make it one. The proper idiom is “My heart goes out.”

I could perhaps tolerate a new idiom where “thoughts go out” to someone, but the second error is not tolerable. Prayers ought never “go out to” the victims, nor to their families. Prayers can only go out to God, “on behalf of” or “for” the victims and their families.

Why politicians and news reporters want to continually tell us that they are praying to the victims and their families is beyond me. Don’t they know how silly this sounds? I’m guessing that many of them don’t even believe that God hears their prayers. Why would they believe the victims and their families can hear their prayers?

Maybe this is just a petty pet peeve.

But for some reason I want to throw a brick at the TV every time I hear the language tortured in this way. The suffering is bad enough at a time like this. People ought not be adding to it.

“My heart goes out to the victims and their families and I am praying for them.”


Is that so hard to say?


Anonymous said...

Sooo---- your heart has left your body and is in transport to a victim. Is that correct?

T. Hahm said...

Nope. Last time I checked my heart was still within my body.

That's because a "heart going out" to someone is a well established idiom, like a "heart breaking" for someone.

"Thoughts and prayers going out" or "sending thoughts and prayers" to someone other than to God is not yet such an idiom, at least not one that I am prepared to accept.

I realize that language is fluid and will change without my permission. But I don't have to like it.

T. Hahm said...

So today it’s official.

Our President(the Evangelical-in-Chief) went to Minneapolis and said he “brought the prayers of the nation to the victims and their families.”

What now?

Are they supposed to try and answer all those prayers?

I would think they had quite enough on their plate without the President and his nation laying that kind of burden on them.

Revvin' Rev said...

I agree with you, Mr. Hahm.. People want to be spiritual, but without Christ, it is hollow and deceptive.