Thursday, September 16, 2010

Goodbye, Newman

I see that broadcaster Edwin Newman, one of the last remaining journalist icons from the "I reported Kennedy's assassination" era, has died. According to the AP report:
Newman died on Aug. 13 of pneumonia in Oxford, England. He had moved there with his wife in 2007 to live closer to their daughter, said his lawyer Rupert Mead. He said the family delayed announcing Newman's death so they could spend some time privately grieving.
Delaying the announcement is a telling old-school touch, a nice gesture of quiet dignity, if you ask me. But I fear that old Edwin, the author of unabashedly curmudgeonly books on language usage such as "Strictly Speaking" and "A Civil Tongue," while perhaps not exactly rolling over in his grave, would at least shift uncomfortably in his repose at the misused restrictive appositive in that passage. It should be "his lawyer, Rupert Mead" because Rupert's name is incidental to the meaning of the sentence and we need a comma to make it parenthetical.

Yeah, I know: who cares? But while we're at it, let's also point out that it might have been a good idea to begin that last sentence in the passage with "Mead said..." The way it stands now it takes us a moment to realize that the "he" from the preceding sentence (Newman) is not the same "he" who is the subject of the succeeding sentence, and that Newman is not, in fact, reporting on his own death. Which, now that I think of it, is probably every iconic newsman's dream assignment.