Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Wingnut PA Dot Com

Today I'm taking a walk on the wild side, a little tour of the internet and blogzome pundits on the Right, and right here in PA. This might even comprise a few entries over the next few days. The first I ran across is Larry Ceisler, a columnist on, who seems to have a nice resume. He's a PR guy, but has worked as a political analyst for a couple television stations here in Philadelphia, and as a guest talk show host on the local conservative yak station. His latest column seems to worry about Mr. Santorum's race, and gives all sorts of praise to Santorum, diminishing the Casey challenge. What strikes me is that the guy has some writing difficulties.

I'm not above being a grammar policeman. After all, I teach writing. And I'll give it to him that Mr. Ceisler may not have the best editors writing on But shouldn't he be able to figure out word usage? This segment suggests strategy for the leading Republican candidates challenging Governor Ed Rendell next year.

So I am proposing a new tact for Piccola, Scranton, and Swann; Campaign for the endorsement as the weakest candidate for Governor and you might obtain the tacit support of at least one Junior Senator whose proxy carries more weight than most at Republican State Committee. Then it is up to you to prove my thesis wrong and show your stuff as The Chief Commentator.

The word "tact," Mr. Ceisler, makes no sense in this sentence. You are stretching for the word "tack," a metaphor drawn from the world of sailing. To "take a new tack" is to steer a new course, clearly the meaning you have in mind here.

Why would one make such a simple error? It's an error based in auditory confusion, and very common among groups who grow up around non-standard English and also among groups who don't read a lot. If one reads, one stores up a memory of such cliche'd metaphors, connect them to their oral usage, thus enabling one to use them appropriately. The favorite similar auditory writing error I've heard in my years of teaching was a student who misspelled "take it for granted." She wrote it "take it for granite," and if you think about it, that means the same thing, that whatever you are taking it for, it is a certainty. Still, it's an auditory mistake. My student had never encountered the phrase in writing, so wrote out what she'd heard, just as Mr. Ceisler does with this mistake.

While it fascinates me that Larry Ceisler has unending praise for Mr. Santorum, not mentioning at all his Penn Hills or Homestead exemption problems, in this, my first foray into Right-wingnutland, PA, I'm not surprised to see that it is the use of language that catches my attention. After all, the very first thing I saw this morning was this garbled headline over at

"Edico Makes The Trib Over Hart Attack!"

I'm yet to figure out just what this headline means. My goodness, if I'm to tread the backwaters of wingnut PA politics, I'm going to have to go take my grammar book off the shelf and dust it off.