January 14th, 2009
Raised or risen? / squashed and quashed
by Barbara Wallraff
Julia Fogarty, of Wayne, Mich., writes: “My grammar book says, ‘The river has raised seven inches,’ with ‘seven inches’ being a direct object, I suppose. Shouldn’t it be ‘The river has risen seven inches,’ with no direct object? What is ‘seven inches’?"
Dear Julia: Take another look at that grammar book, please, and if it really gives that sentence as a correct example of something, throw it out. Don’t give it away, so it will misinform someone else -- throw it in the trash.
Richard McMahan, of Glenville, N.Y., writes: “Someone wrote that a prophet was ‘squashed’ by the authorities. A critic asserted that the word should be ‘quashed.’ The writer countered that ‘squashed’ is most appropriately applied to things, including people, whereas ‘quash’ is appropriately applied to ideas, positions, laws, etc., and the point of the essay was that the prophet’s ideas had not been suppressed or silenced. What say you?”
Dear Richard: To give you a definitive answer, I think I’d need to know exactly what happened to that unlucky prophet. When “squashed” is applied to things, it tends to mean physical crushing. For instance, a Nebraska TV station’s Web site recently reported that “A mangled Chevrolet Cavalier was squashed under the semi trailer at Interstate 80 and the South Expressway,” in Omaha. I certainly hope the authorities didn’t crush the prophet to death! However, I also found many examples in the news of “squashed” applied to abstractions, such as rumors. I agree with your critic that the better word in most of these cases would have been “quashed.”
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