One-offs, GORE-such & A Heart-Warming Report From ‘PPR News’

On long drives from Virginia to New York State and back in the past month, I listened to our coverage of the Gorsuch* confirmation hearings, analyses of the health care debate, breaking news about the missile strikes in Syria and Alice Cooper talking about Chuck Berry. I felt fully informed and entertained. Thank you.

Now if, as happened to me, you get to a point where you need relief from the serious side of the news, here’s a recommendation: Listen to and read Alina Selyukh’s story about the couple who are preserving the emails they’ve been writing to their daughter, who’s almost three years old.  It tugged at the heart of at least one aging editor.

This also happened to me during one of those long drives: I heard people ask on our air whether the missile strike was a “one-off” and I began to wonder where that expression came from and just what it means. William Safire reported that it began as a British manufacturing term meaning “the only item of its kind.”  He concluded that one-off has become a way of saying something is unique in an age when the word unique has been mistakenly corrupted by modifiers such as “very, quite, rather, almost [and] practically.” Webster’s defines one-off as “something that is one of a kind, not part of a series.” Merriam-Webster’s definition seems to fit best in the current conversation: “limited to a single time, occasion, or instance.”

A correct usage: “Based on things she’s said to him in the past, Korva’s compliment to Mark was a one-off.”

An incorrect usage: “Korva’s perfect pronunication of Eyjafjallajokull was a one-off.” (It couldn’t be, because she nailed it many times.)

* REMINDER: Our official pronouncer is “GORE-such.” Not “GORE-sitch.” You can hear him say his name here. (H/T Melissa Block)

(“Memmos;” April 11, 2017)

April 11, 2017

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