Take an oeillade on this overlooked subject-verb disagreement

10. Verb

Last week’s ranking: 13

Meaning and usage

The verb is “characteristically… the grammatical centre of a predicate and expresses an act, occurrence, or mode of being.” This is usually straightforward, but then you come across cases like the one below that makes subject-verb agreements seemingly disagreeable.  

Why it is in the news

One of the most curious problems in English

I came across an article from a Kenyan-based news publication whose author addressed one of the most curious and overlooked problems in English: the subject-verb agreement with sentences using the “one of the…” structure.

Philip Ochieng, the author, put the following part of a sentence on trial:

               “…book publishing is one of the industries that attracts the least number of new investments…”

Ochieng contends that the verb “to attract” should be in the plural form (attract) and not the singular form (attracts). He asks you and me, the readers, “what exactly ‘attracts?’ Is it the pronoun ‘one’ or the noun ‘industries.'”

To quote Mr Ochieng: “In the above statement, therefore, the plural noun ‘industries’, not to the singular pronoun ‘one’ — which merely exemplifies it — is your grammatical take-off point.”

I had to break this down myself. Sentence diagramming comes to the rescue.

Book publishing is not the noun that takes the verb “attracts” as it already has committed an action in the sentence: “is.” Book publishing is an industry; book publishing is tedious. We have already established the action that “book publishing” is doing.

“Book publishing” is the antecedent (a word that will be replaced by another word later in the sentence) for the pronoun “one.” “Book publishing is one” can stand on its own as a sentence, albeit awkwardly. Continuing on with the sentence, we learn that book publishing is one of many industries. Again, awkward as its own sentence.

We have established that book publishing belongs to a group of industries. After discovering this revelatory bit of information, we learn something specific about the collection of industries. These industries attract very few investors.

The antecedent of “that” is “industries”, not “one” or “book publishing.” In the sentence diagram above, you can see that “that” is the subject of the relative clause. With “that” acting as the representative for a plural noun, a plural verb form is required.

Let us talk it out. Book publishing is an industry. Book publishing is an industry that attracts the least number of investments. Book publishing is one of the industries that attract the least number of investments.

Got it? Now, do not do it again, self.

11. Furlough

Last week’s ranking: 16

Meaning and usage

Depending on how you want to set the mood of one being without employment, furlough, as a noun, can be a “leave of absence granted at the employee’s request” or “a temporary lack of employment due to economic conditions: layoff.”

Why it is in the news

Good Morning (furloughed) America

The difference between “furlough” and “layoff” was broken down by Good Morning America.

In short, companies will furlough employees as a way to combat financial uncertainty or difficulty while keeping said employees on the books. They are not paying the employees, but most of the employees’ benefits are still in effect. Companies usually intend to reinstate furloughed employees once the difficult stretch has passed. Fully or partially furloughed employees are eligible for unemployment collection.

Companies will lay off employees in order to completely sever ties with them. They will not pay the employee, nor will they provide any employment benefits (health insurance, for example) to those employees.

USA Today in late April published the reported number of furloughed or temporarily laid off workers in major US companies. Disney has furloughed around 100,000 theme park employees, and other major retailers and hospitality players have “temporarily laid off” similar numbers.

12. False

Last week’s ranking: 5

Meaning and usage

That which is contrary to truth, is false – an adjective.

Why it is in the news

False news is all news

What was “false” in the news:

13. Culture

Last week’s ranking: 14

Meaning and usage

The MW Unabridged definition of “culture” is the “art or practice of cultivating: tillage.”

The collegiate definition states that culture is “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.

If you fail to grow crops in a field of good tillage, you should blame your approach to culture, not the soil.

If you fail to rear your children to be good, upstanding citizens, you should blame yourself, not the culture.

Why it is in the news

The thistly soil

Restaurants opening back up during the coronavirus: great.

Hair salons opening: needed.

Shopping centres and liquor stores: all good.

Churches, mosques, and synagogues: by no means!

A spat between press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and reporters on Friday, 22 May over the opening of churches, mosques, and synagogues across the country was seen by Vanity Fair as Trump’s escalation of “the culture wars

Donald Trump wants to see all houses of worship open, and he threatened to override governors’ decisions against this. The Vanity Fair article said Trump deems houses of worship “essential places that provide essential services.” Trumps is also said to have criticized governors who say liquor stores and abortion clinics are essential.

Vanity Fair finds Trump’s desire for houses of worship to be opened as “a cynical ploy to ignite the culture wars.”

If battle lines for the culture wars are drawn at churches and other houses of worship, that is telling you something about the cultural tillage of society.

14. Quarantine

Last week’s ranking: 10

Meaning and usage

To be quarantined is to “isolated as a precaution against contagious disease.” The word comes from the Old French quarantaine, or a period of forty days, which we have passed long ago.

Why it is in the news

A staycation abroad

Travellers arriving to France or the UK are required to self-isolate for 14 days starting on June 8.

The UK announced on May 22 that overseas arrivals will be forced to quarantine themselves for two weeks, per Sky News. Medical personal and, of course, lorry drivers are exempt from this requirement.

15. Waveson

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

Waveson is (are?) goods that, after a shipwreck, appear floating on the sea. This is otherwise known as “flotsam.”

Why it is in the news

Most of what you read online is the flotsam and jetsam of blogs belonging to desperate bloggers. Thankfully, I guess, Google does a good job of removing waveson from search results. I found nothing of interesting on “waveson” in the news other than a description of a flag that “waves on.”

16. Coronavirus

Last week’s ranking: 12

Meaning and usage

The coronavirus belongs to the family of Coronaviridae, single-stranded RNA viruses. Under the microscope, they are shaped like crowns (Latin: corona).

Why it is in the news

The crown’s second age

There is much talk begetting much fear about the “second wave” of the coronavirus. The virus will appear to have subsided, it is said, only to infect the down-guarded public for a second time.

Between the ebb of this supposed second wave, other events of note are happening that The Guardian nicely summarizes on their web page.

17. Oeillade

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

A Middle French word for the 1590s, oeillade is “a glance of the eye, especially: ogle.”

Why it is in the news

It’s not

Nothing of recent note would suggest for “oeillade” to be perched at the number seventeen spot in this week’s Words of the Week. Last year’s eight-way tie ending to the 2019 Scripps Spelling Bee included oeillade as one of its final twelve words.

On a personal front

I often get house-fever while walking around Malta. The charming townhouses or stone farmhouses on this ancient island beg for oeillades, and they percolate my mortgage receptors.

DISCLAIMER to my family: I know that my student loan comes first.

18. Magnify

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

To magnify is to increase in significance, or “to praise highly; to make great.”

The first known use of this word was in the 14th century. It originates for the Middle English word magnifien.

Even the collegiate definition of “magnify” puts words such as “extol” and “laud” above definitions I expected to come first, such as “to enlarge in fact or in appearance.”

I am now reminded of this Arvo Pärt classic: Magnificat.

Why it is in the news

Force multiplier

The coronavirus will magnify pre-existing societal conditions, according to various articles online: racism (as already covered), inequalities, food shortages, and financial worries. We have also seen kind acts magnified throughout the web, too, thanks to John Krasinski’s Some Good News.

I am convinced that the coronavirus and the subsequent shutdowns, lockdowns, and downtime have magnified the previously minimized but truly valuable things in life.

19. Hinder

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

An obsolete version of the verb “to hinder” is “to do harm: impair, damage.” Now we typically use hinder to mean “make slow or difficult the course or progress of.”

Why it is in the news

Sit on your hinder parts and wait it out

Fret not! Belarus-Georgia relations will not be hindered because of the coronavirus.

Now that we have that out of the way, let us move on. It was difficult to find particular reasons why “hindered” inspired many to crack open the dictionary. You can say I was unhindered to find a litany of search results – of course, all mostly coronavirus related.

Summer plans are hindered, events are hindered, sports leagues were certainly hindered, and there are fears that Trump will try to delay the 2020 elections.

My favorite sports leagues were delayed, and I got over it. No big deal. Maybe we will all get over the delay of the 2020 elections? More time to think it over, perhaps. (Facetious statement for the week.)

20. Mingy

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

When a mean person is stingy, they are mingy. Merriam-Webster speculates that mingy is simply a blend of mean and stingy.

Why it is in the news

Mingy Airlines

My wife and I were very fortunate to have received a voucher from Delta Airlines and Air France that fully reimburses us for the flight we were unable to take because of the coronavirus. Merci, merci very much.

Others may not be so lucky. Airlines are refusing to refund passengers. Most EU states want the EU to suspend refunds for cancelled flights, but to instead provide vouchers, such as the ones my wife and I received, in order to later revive the traffic market beyond Covid-19.

2 thoughts on “Take an oeillade on this overlooked subject-verb disagreement

  1. Pingback: Hi, my noun is John – Oranjetaan.com

  2. Pingback: How to identify this overlooked subject-verb disagreement in writing | Sword Word Creative

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