"Mistrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong." Friedrich Nietzche

"Any and all non-violent, non-coercive, non-larcenous, consensual adult behavior that does not physically harm other people or their property or directly and immediately endangers same, that does not disturb the peace or create a public nuisance, and that is done in private, especially on private property, is the inalienable right of all adults. In a truly free and liberty-loving society, ruled by a secular government, no laws should be passed to prohibit such behavior. Any laws now existing that are contrary to the above definition of inalienable rights are violations of the rights of adults and should be made null and void." D. M. Mitchell (from The Myth of Inalienable Rights, at: http://dowehaverights.blogspot.com/)

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Is Proven" and Eating Healthy"?

I have a gripe—actually, two of them—about what I perceive to be abuses of the English language. Several times in commercials for one pharmaceutical product or another I have heard the same phrase: This product is proven to be clinically effective. My other gripe is about a phrase in common usage regarding one’s diet: I eat healthy.

My first gripe has to do with mixing verb tenses improperly. The word is happens to be the present tense (third person) of the verb to be. Proven is a past tense (past participle) of the verb to prove. Is describes a state of being in the present—right now. Proven describes what has happened in the past. From what I learned in school about English, and from what I have looked up on line to verify what I had learned, the sentence should be written: This product has been proven to be clinically effective. One could also say: There is clinical proof as to the effectiveness of this product. The first sentence tells us that, in the past, the drug was tested and shown to work as expected and promoted. The second sentence tells us that the drug company has proof—records, documents—on hand showing that the drug does what it is supposed to do.

I did a little searching and at www.learnersdictionary.com/langhelp/usage.htm, a Merriam-Webster site. I found “Common Word Usage Problems,” and “clicked” on proven (proved is equally correct). There, I saw an example that fit perfectly with my theory of proper grammar: “(‘a drug that has been proved [proven] effective’).” (Emphasis added.)

I am sure that the ads of which I am complaining cost more money to make and televise than I make in a year’s time . . . maybe even two or three years. And yet, “it is proven” is repeated time and again and the listening public hears the incorrect grammar, believing it to be correct. Could this grammar error be driven by ignorance?

Do I protest too much? I don’t think so. Even though the English language is more than a bit complicated, I believe it is important to keep the language intact for as long as possible. Change will come, of course. And that’s all right. But I am talking about basic grammar here, not some new, catchy word or phrase. I am talking about some very rich companies. It seems to me that they could have gotten it right.

My second gripe is with the now common sentence regarding one’s diet: I eat healthy. The word healthy is an adjective. Adjectives describe or modify nouns or pronouns. In the sentence I eat healthy, the adjective healthy modifies nothing. To say that you eat healthy is like saying that you eat eggs, or apples, or some other thing. It is using the word healthy as a noun. You can eat a healthy diet—a diet that is healthy for you. You can eat healthily—in a manner that is healthy for you. But you can’t eat healthy unless you can describe the taste, smell, size, texture, and so forth of the thing that you are eating.

Will my gripes (okay, the rantings of a curmudgeon) make any difference? Probably not. Most people are too busy with their own problems to care about a little deviation in proper grammar usage of the English language . . . but I feel better.

No comments: