Thursday, November 01, 2007

The All-Purpose Preposition

Bei mir bist-du ungrammatical.

That was my first thought on reading this sentence on Chabad news-site

The Israeli new daily "Israel Today" in today's edition carries a picture taken by the funeral of former Israeli president Zalman Shazar.

Now, I might re-order the adjectives in the first clause, saying "new Israeli daily", since we seem to order adjectives with capitalized ones closer to the noun, but that's a minor quibble.

On the other hand, that's some active funeral, which can take a picture.

The rest of the article is no better. The second sentence describes the subject of the photograph. The third sentence begins "His funeral took place..." Whose funeral? The subject of the picture, or the funeral at which the picture was taken? It then mentions Olmert's diagnosis of "prostrate cancer". And that's all in three short paragraphs.

If you're going to write for an English-speaking audience, you have to write clearly. Hire a real editor, one who went to a good American college, who has read widely and has absorbed good usage from good books, as well as from technical grammar and usage manuals. Yiddish phraseology (the all-purpose Yiddish preposition "bei" just doesn't work everywhere in English) won't cut it.

1 comment:

Arie Folger said...

That kind of language doesn't cut it in Yiddish either.