Archive for the 'Britney Spears' Category

Celebrity English

June 29, 2006

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Britney Spears and Two Agreement Errors

June 12, 2006

In an interview with Matt Lauer, Britney Spears explained that neither the tabloids nor motherhood have taken their toll on her good spirits.

This sentence contains two errors: one in subject/verb agreement and one in pronoun/antecedent agreement. When correlative conjunctions, such as "neither" and "nor," are used in a sentence, the subject closer to the verb and the referent pronoun determines the number of those words. Crossing off everything from "neither" to "nor" may help in identifying the subject:

In an interview with Matt Lauer, Britney Spears explained that neither the tabloids nor motherhood have taken their toll on her good spirits.

Now that the first part of the subject has been crossed off, it is clear that the subject of the clause is "motherhood," which is singular, and that the verb ("have taken") and the referent pronoun ("their") are plural. Change the number of the verb and the referent pronoun so that they are in agreement with the subject of the clause.

In an interview with Matt Lauer, Britney Spears explained that neither the tabloids nor motherhood has taken its toll on her good spirits.

Britney and an Error in Diction: liable/likely

June 8, 2006

Britney Spears is liable to develop a line of clothing bearing her son's namesake, for she recently filed a trademark application for the words "SEAN PRESTON."

This sentence contains an error in diction: "liable" has been used in place of "likely."

"Liable" means "responsible," as in "Parents are liable for their children's behavior." It can also mean "probable," but only when it precedes an infinitive that would cause a negative outcome for the subject, as in "You are liable to fall if you walk on a wet floor" or "If he does not study, he will be liable to fail."

In this sentence, the infinitive is "to develop." While her endeavor may possibly fail, developing a line of clothing is not a negative outcome. It would be something that Britney planned and desired. A better word to use in this sentence is "likely," which means "probable" but without the negative connotations of "liable."

The sentence should be written as follows:

Britney Spears is likely to develop a line of clothing bearing her son's namesake, for she recently filed a trademark application for the words "SEAN PRESTON."

Brad, Britney, and a Faulty Comparison

May 24, 2006

Are Brad Pitt's parenting skills as bad as Britney Spears? When he took his infant daughter on a bike ride, she did not wear a helmet and she was carried in a baby-pack that has instructions that warn against using it while riding a bike.

The first sentence contains a faulty comparison. What is being compared? The comparison is between "parenting skills" and "Britney Spears." A person should not be compared to skills. Skills should be compared to skills.

Modify the sentence to create a comparison that is logical:

Are Brad Pitt's parenting skills as bad as Britney Spears' child-rearing abilities?

or

Are Brad Pitt's parenting skills as bad as those of Britney Spears?

Britney and an Error in Diction: lay/lie

May 19, 2006

Britney Spears gives her baby ice cream before he lays down to sleep.

This sentence contains an error in diction: the improper use of a form of the verb "to lay."

"To lay" is a transitive verb that means "to place something on a surface" and requires an object. You lay something down.

"To lie" is an intransitive verb that means "to be in or take on a horizontal position." Since it is intransitive, it never takes a subject. You lie down to sleep.

There is no object in the clause that begins with "before." The baby is reclining, not putting something down. Correct the sentence by replacing "lay" with "lie."

Britney Spears gives her baby ice cream before he lies down to sleep.

Alternatively, you can change the structure of the sentence to form a direct object and use the transitive "lay."

Britney Spears gives her baby ice cream before she lays him down to sleep.

Britney and a Dangling Participle

May 14, 2006

Confirming all the rumors, it was announced that Britney Spears is pregnant again.

This sentence is incorrect because it contains a dangling participle. Who was confirming the rumors? The subject of this sentence is "it," but "it" cannot confirm rumors. A person confirms rumors. Correct the sentence by changing the subject.

Confirming all the rumors, Britney Spears announced that she is pregnant again.