October 29th, 2003
Die or pass away / a whole 'nother / enamored of or enamored by
by Barbara Wallraff
Mendel Bernstein, of Deerfield Beach, Fla., writes, “Doesn’t anybody ‘die’ nowadays? Everybody seems to ‘pass away.’ Comment, please.”
“Pass away” and “pass” are classic euphemisms. More than 30 years ago the Monty Python troupe of British comedians made fun of such indirect expressions in their famous “Pet Shop” sketch. This stars a customer complaining to the shop’s owner about a parrot he has just bought and, for good reason, wants to return: “He’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! He’s expired and gone to meet his maker! He’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ’e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed him to the perch, he’d be pushing up the daisies! His metabolic processes are now history! He’s off the twig! He’s kicked the bucket! He’s shuffled off this mortal coil, rung down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible! This is an ex-parrot!!”
Tim Hopmann, of Columbus, Ohio, writes, “Recently I was surprised to hear myself say ‘a whole ’nother.’ Since then I have been working to eradicate this verbal tic from my speech, but I have found it running rampant in the speech of those with whom I deal every day. How can I introduce an alternative that will catch on with all the bad influences around me?”
There’s nothing wrong with saying “a whole ’nother”—at least in everyday conversation. The process underlying this expression even has an ancient Greek name: tmesis. As the American Heritage Dictionary defines “tmesis,” it is the “separation of the parts of a compound word by one or more intervening words.”
Jim Trebilcock, of Gainesville, Fla., writes, “Is ‘enamored’ always followed by the preposition ‘of’? ’Among her many virtues, he was most enamored of her easy laugh’? I often see it as ‘enamored by,’ but I was taught that usage is incorrect.”
“Enamored of” is definitely better form than “enamored by.” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, which is not known for raising picky objections to things that people often say, asserts that “enamor” is “usually used in the passive with ‘of’ or ‘with.’” That’s about as strong a recommendation against saying “enamored by” as you’re likely to see in the Collegiate. The brand-new Garner’s Modern American Usage, which is pickier, declares that “‘enamored” takes the preposition ‘of,’ not ‘with,’” and it doesn’t so much as mention “by.” Yes, do continue to pass “enamored by” by.
© Copyright 2003 by Barbara Wallraff. Reprints require prior permission. All rights reserved.