Monday, March 1, 2010

"In Behalf" of "On Behalf"...of. Likely, A Vain Defense.

As you'll all recall, a couple of weeks ago, Joseph Stack flew a small private plane into a building housing the I.R.S. in Austin, TX.  A few days later, his daughter, Samantha Bell showed up on Good Morning America, where she briefly pronounced here father a "hero" (which she later sorta, kinda retracted).  During the interview, she said,

"I think too many people lay around and wait for things to happen, but if nobody comes out and speaks up on behalf of injustice then nothing will ever be accomplished", (emphasis mine).
In behalf of means "for the benefit of": you might write a letter of recommendation in behalf of a colleague. On behalf of means "on the part of" or "as the agent of": a lawyer acts on behalf of her client.

I'm sure she didn't mean to be, but Samantha Bell was actually accurate in her assessment.  Joseph Stack, was, in fact, operating as an agent for injustice.

In another example of language use that has annoyed me lately, Oprah Winfrey had Jerry Seinfeld and Tom Papa on her show today.  They were there to promote The Marriage Ref, their new show.  If the reviews of the show (and what I saw on Oprah) are any indication, they've got an uphill battle on their hands.

Anyway, if you didn't know about it, Oprah's got a new crusade, her No Phone Zone campaign.  She's out to get people to stop using cell phones and texting behind the wheel, a perfectly reasonable cause to be championing.

That said, however, I had two problems with her today.  Toward the end of the show, she asked Jerry and Tom about their texting/cell phone habits in the car.  Jerry said that he'd stopped years ago because of a friend who had been killed by a driver talking on his cell phone.  Tom, clearly feeling a little unsure of himself, said he uses a handsfree bluetooth device.

Then Oprah has a P.A. come out on stage with copies of her No Phone Zone Pledge for them to sign.  It was pretty obvious that both of them had been ambushed with the request that they sign onto her campaign in front of a studio audience with no advance prep.  They both read the thing pretty carefully before signing.  You may think that they had an option of not signing; hey, Jerry's powerful enough to get that part of the show cut before it airs.  But the audience certainly would have made it into Celebrity News, so Jerry really had no choice.  (Tom's probably a different story -- Have you ever heard of Tom Papa?  I didn't think so.)

The part that really annoyed me, though (hey, I'm sure celebreties' agents are savvy to the Oprah Ambush now), is that while they were signing the thing, she said something (and I can't quote it exactly), about how spreading the word and getting people to sign onto her crusade would mean that people who had been killed by distracted drivers wouldn't have died in vain.  Oprah, I think the entire point is that they did die in vain.  Your whole crusade is about preventing future senseless deaths because someone needed to text a grocery list behind the wheel.

1 comment:

Anne C. said...

Nathan, I am shocked and horrified at the quality of content of this post. I come here expecting frivolity and shallowness and what do I find? Grammar lessons and rational thought on moral values! To add insult to injury, I actually agree with both.

Sheesh! What in the heck is the world coming to? What's next -- Jim Wright not ranting about his latest trip into "civilization"? (It has to be in quotes, it's civilization in Alaska.)