A Grammar Question

A question that will start with a rant. American sportscasters, who understand that “team” is a singular noun, will say, in reference to a basketball team, “The team is ready for the season.” Because they are referring to a single, specific team.

But those same talkers will say of a Soccer club, “The team are ready for the season.” As much as England gets its collective nouns wrong, it is offensively pretentious to suspend grammar when discussing something related to the old world. What the heck, why not just speak Portuguese when talking about soccer?

*deep breath*

Anyway, I’m here to discuss grammar with numbers. Recently I wrote “there is a bazillion power poles…” I read that a few times, uncertain. “There are a bazillion…” sounds more natural, and that’s probably my answer to my question. Eventually I changed that episode.

But “there are bazillions” is one thing, “there is a bazillion” is another. How many bazillions? One. A bazillion. By that logic, “There is a bazillion power poles” is correct. It just doesn’t ring right. Perhaps “There is a bazillion <preposition> power poles.” That reads better, but there’s no simple preposition that makes sense there. “There’s a bazillion of them dang power poles” certainly reads well.

I’m pretty sure the presence of a prepositional phrase should not affect the verb of the sentence, which backs up the “there is a bazillion” argument.

It just sounds wrong sometimes, is all. Can anyone supply the Ultimate Grammar Truth?


This is Journalism?

I left this comment on an article over at Forbes.com

This is an interesting article, but seriously, Forbes, is anyone there watching over the grammar? Is the third most innovative company America? I don’t think that’s what you meant, but that’s what you said. Maybe I can forgive the missing hyphen (well, no, I can’t, not from alleged professionals) in the Red Hat bit, but there’s some nasty comma action going on.

Later, another missing hyphen, that changes the meaning of the sentence.

Probably the most annoying error is the comma splice in the da Vinci section. Good Lord, people, learn to use a semicolon! You’re Forbes, right? Professionals and masters of prose? Certainly no one would confuse your articles with some unchecked blather steaming out of the blogosphere. Although you’ve done nothing to differentiate yourselves in this article.

Show a little pride in your work.

Just because it’s the Web doesn’t mean you can write like shit.