06 May 2012

Pet Peeves: "Comprise"

Call it petty or ridiculous, the misuse of the word "comprise" drives me bananas.

Merriam Webster wonders at why it is such a sticking point for some since, according to them, the incorrect usage has been with us for over 200 years.

On the other hand, Merriam Webster also says that usage of the word at all outside of what amounts to science and academia is a relatively recent phenomenon.

The wrong usage is to say the parts comprise the whole: "the citizens comprise the nation." But this is how I see it time and again and again and again, especially when I read stuff from people who seek to sound 'expetcially edumacated.' That's a part of why it grinds me so; I just hate the posing. Then again, it's a logic error, which also grinds.

Just like using the word "I" in the objective case. Let me put that another way... "It looks to her and me that the situation is SNAFU." is correct. Yet poseurs of all ranks insist on saying, "It looks to she and I (or her and I) that the situation is SNAFU. That puts the nominative case pronoun(s) (she, I) where only an objective case one (her, me) will do. The simple way to work that one out is get rid of the "she and" and just think of the sentence this way: "It looks to ME that the situation is SNAFU." (Similarly, "It looks to her that the situation is SNAFU.") You wouldn't try to stick an "I" in that; it'd sound stupid. News Flash, Genius: it sounds stupid when combined with the other pronoun, too.

Back to "comprise": The group comprises its members. It's members constitute or make up or compose the group, but they do NOT comprise it.

The U.S. Congress comprises the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate; the U.S. Senate comprises all U.S. senators; the Executive Branch comprises the President, his cabinet and advisors and all departments constitutionally belonging under his direction.

The orchestra comprises all the musicians in it; the musicians constitute the orchestra.

Well, that's two of my linguistic pet peeves: the misuse of "comprise" and the use of nominative case pronouns where objective case pronouns are necessary... both irritate me because of the attempt by the speaker to sound oh so proper.

Just had to get that off my chest.

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