Friday, April 2, 2010

NewsSpeak: No Hebrew Allowed!

Have you noticed how seldom you hear the word “get” on radio or TV these days? Hopefully not, or you’d be as crazy as I am about stuff like this. Apparently, the news writing and commercial writing gods have decreed that the word “get” shall be stricken from all public records, removed from buildings, and shall no longer be uttered in the realm.

The word that replaces get is “receive”.

“Buy one – receive one free!!!” I actually heard that on a TV commercial a few nights ago. Who talks like that? But, the point I’ve been trying to make for decades as a news writing coach is NOBODY talks like broadcasters. One of the big bosses at Chicago’s WGN stirred up a hornet’s nest a few weeks ago when he put out a memo to his staff telling them to knock off the broadcast jargon and write and speak conversational English.

Apparently, whoever the trendsetters in news and commercial writing may be, they want to make sure we don’t confuse the meanings of the word “get”. The acronym GET means different things depending on where you live. In Bakersfield, CA, it’s the bus company: Golden Empire Transit. In the state of Washington, it’s the Guaranteed Education Tuition program.

If you’re Jewish, it means divorce. A “get” is the divorce document. It is given from the husband to the wife he’s dumping, and the basic get says “You are hereby permitted to other men.” It signifies to the world that the Hebrew laws of adultery no longer apply.

So the broadcast writing trendsetters must be Jewish, and they’re happily married. No gets.

Here’s the last line of a news story that was on one of the local TV stations earlier this week: “He received non-life-threatening injuries in the crash.” Again I ask – who talks like that? Who “receives” injuries in a car wreck? The far more accepted cliché is “suffered” injuries, which is just as bad. Heaven forefend they should say “he wasn’t seriously injured” or “he’s gonna be awful sore tomorrow, but he’ll live.”

Another line from local TV last night in a commercial for a resort: “Stay two nights and receive a third night for free”! Huh? You mean stay two nights and GET the third night free. (Notice how I cleverly left out the unnecessary word “for” in front of “free”.)

From a radio story on a local station this week: “He received a citation for drunk driving”. How about “he got a ticket for drunken driving.” (That drunk/drunken thing is something all the broadcasters get wrong, every time.) Picture a cop pulling over some guy who’s weaving all over the road, giving him a field sobriety test, and then saying “Here, receive this citation.”

To bring some closure to this topic, the next time a write a rant about NewsSpeak, I’m gonna find out who changed “closing” to “closure” when they’re telling me about all the “lane closures” at the Zoo Interchange in Milwaukee or on the eastbound Beltline in Madison.

They’ll receive some “closure” from me when I catch ‘em.


  1. Eternal vigilance. Somehow "that" is a pronoun now. Every time the word "different" is used it is incorrect or unnecessary. "They beat seven different teams down the stretch ..." Search for the words "in order to" and delete, delete, delete. You would be dreaming if you found someone using "presently" correctly. Geez, and I was having such a quiet Friday . . .

  2. “He received non-life-threatening injuries in the crash.”

    Real People English:

    "He was smacked up pretty bad but he'll live."