Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Blinding Attack

On Ambiguous Headlines: Like many of you, Abq Jew follows the news during the day on the various and varied news sites that make up (which is to say, comprise) what we sometimes fondly and too often not fondly call "the media."

Here is a headline Abq Jew caught the other day on

NMSU graduates blind auto mechanic

Maybe he's been reading too much bad news lately, and maybe there's too much bad news lately that's being reported. But Abq Jew's immediate reaction to this headline was
My God, why would intelligent, educated people, who had studied for years and been graduated from one of New Mexico's finest institutions of higher learning, act in such a mean, cruel, vicious way?
Fortunately, this reaction didn't last long. The sub-heading was

Man gets inspiration from daughter,
says graduating felt like a dream

Here is the full, inspiring story, which you can view and / or read on KOAT's website.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. —Some things you have to see to believe, but believe it or not there is a blind certified mechanic in New Mexico. 
Clifford Alderson recently graduated from New Mexico State University with an auto mechanics degree. He said he listens to diagnose a problem, and then feels his way around the vehicle to get the job done. 
He said his daughter is his inspiration; she has the same genetic disease that made him go blind. 
“I need to leave something for her,” said Alderson. “I think this is one of the things that she can work toward.  If dad can do it, I can do it too.” 
He said graduating felt like a dream. 

Graduate, by the way, may be either a transitive verb (which takes a direct object) or an intransitive verb (which does not). So claims Grammar Girl, whom Abq Jew trusts implicitly. And explicitly.
When you say that someone graduated from a specific college you are using the intransitive form of "to graduate" because the verb has no object. Let's say Squiggly got a degree from Burrow College. Although it's a bit archaic, the formal way to say this using the intransitive form of the verb "to graduate" is to say, "Squiggly was graduated from Burrow." The more modern way to say it and still be correct is "Squiggly graduated from Burrow." You need the "from." Squiggly graduated FROM Burrow. The shortest form of this sentence would be "Squiggly graduated." If you think about it that way, you can see that "from Burrow" isn't an object, it's just a prepositional phrase that tells you more about where Squiggly graduated from. 
The thing is, when you say, "Squiggly graduated Burrow," you've turned "to graduate" into a transitive verb. By definition, the act of graduating is something a school does to a student, not something a student does to a school. Schools graduate students. You could say that Burrow graduated 600 students this year. However, if you say, “Squiggly graduated Burrow,” you're making Squiggly the subject and Burrow the object and saying that Squiggly did something to the college. It's possible Squiggly did many things to the college during his tenure there. He may have damaged the college, delighted the college, or desecrated the college--but he didn't graduate the college.
Graduate, by the way, may also be a noun, which is where Abq Jew was misled.

Graduate: One who has received
an academic degree or diploma.

Which brings us to the famous (well, well-known) conversation between Alice and the March Hare, featuring the Dormouse.
March Hare: …Then you should say what you mean.  
Alice: I do; at least - at least I mean what I say -- that's the same thing, you know. 
Hatter: Not the same thing a bit! Why, you might just as well say that, 'I see what I eat' is the same as 'I eat what I see'! 
March Hare: You might just as well say, that "I like what I get" is the same thing as "I get what I like"!  
The Dormouse: You might just as well say, that "I breathe when I sleep" is the same thing as "I sleep when I breathe"!
Oh, and Abq Jew could continue with a sly segue into the also famous (well, also well-known) book by Lynne Truss

Eats, Shoots & Leaves:
The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

Where, Abq Jew hears you ask, did that crazy title come from?  "From this story," says Abq Jew.
A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. 
"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife annual and tosses it over his shoulder. 
"I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up." 
The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation. 
Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.
As they say,

Starting the sentence with a capital letter wouldn't hurt, either!

And finally, in conclusion, Abq Jew must (yes, he must!) end with this photographic tribute to his favorite daughter, Alex the Boston University Graduate.

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