The cost of your brother

“I bought my brother a coat.” Really? How much did you have to pay to buy your brother?

Are you confused by my questions? Then perhaps you have become entranced by a corruption of the English language that has become all too common in daily speech and even some professional writing.

But take hope. With a little awareness of what you say and write, you too can remain among the correctly literate.

Consider the example sentence; it has two parts:

    Part 1: “I bought my brother.” This is a sentence.

    Part 2: “A coat.” These are spare words, as the sentence is constructed now.

So what might the message really be?

    Maybe: “I bought my brother and a coat?” No, probably not.

    Perhaps: “I bought a coat for my brother.” Ah, yes, that makes more sense. Yes, “I bought a coat … for my brother.”

Unfortunately, the error of missing or misplaced words has become so widespread that most people understand the meaning in spite of the incorrect sentence structure.

However, you, as a writer of quality prose, will want to be aware of awkward phrase placement. You will want to compose sentences that convey an accurate image–unless, of course, you are writing dialogue for a character who speaks with the idioms of popular American culture.

Here are more examples to help you get the picture.

    Common but incorrect: “I emailed my sister.”
    Correct: “I sent an email to my sister.” (Better to send an email than to send a sister through cyberspace.)

    Common but incorrect: “I baked my mother a cake.”
    Correct: “I baked a cake for my mother.” (Better to bake a cake than to bake your mother.)

    Common but incorrect: “Bring me a glass of water.” (Bring you where?)
    Correct: “Bring a glass of water to me.”
    Better: “Bring a glass of water to me, please.

IMG_5465-Honopu-Ridge-2011-07-24-600pxw-224x168

The land forms that comprise the Na Pali coast on the northwest side of Kauai are like rugged fingers that extend from a central highland toward the Pacific Ocean. The tips of each finger dip in elevation, creating gradual slopes then sheer drop-offs. The erosion below nestles into and, in places, covers a thin strip of white-sand beach.

To view these vast vistas, our group hiked with local guide Danny Hashimoto on Honopu Ridge. We rambled along a forest path until the canopy gave way, then we passed through narrow trails with our shoulders brushing towering shrubs. With more sunlight, the vegetation grew lush and colorful–exemplified by this fragrant kahili ginger plant, which, although beautiful, is also a non-native invasive species.

As we neared the ocean, the trail became a narrow peaked path with dizzying slopes. There, we ate lunch and drank in the view as well as some of Danny’s famously delicious dessert: cacao mousse, made with raw cacao powder, cacao butter, coconut cream, coconut butter, and Kaua’i organic honey made with neither sugar nor dairy.

Our return was marked by a full rainbow, a gift from a distant thunderstorm, and, according to legend, a bridge for the gods.

Photo by Robert M Weir, July 2011, on the Honopu Ridge trail, Kauai, Hawaii.




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