Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My Alma Mater in Action (sigh)

One of my coworkers has a University of Texas desk calendar with fun facts and quiz questions about the university. Since three of us are all graduates from the Austin campus, he often shares the daily entries with us. Here is today’s astonishing revelation:

“The University of Texas At Austin Fact (of the day):
L. Theo Bellmont, for whom is credited for helping create Memorial Stadium, is also credited with helping discover and create the Southwest Conference.”

As can be expected by anyone with a lick of understanding of English, my coworkers and I mocked the living hell out of this sentence. Mocking was imperative because it was very, very, very poorly written. If this sentence is indicative of the quality of education received from UT Austin, I should be demanding a significant chunk of my money back.

How is it wrong? Let me count the ways:

1) “for whom is credited for” is totally incorrect. Please read it aloud to develop a full appreciation for the supremely clunky phrasing. It should be “who is credited with”.

2) “create Memorial Stadium” – Granted, I’m just an engineer, but aren’t stadiums built? Did he wish the stadium into existence by using the power of the Force? How exactly do you “create” a stadium in a way that doesn’t involve more applicable verbs like designing, financing, building or overseeing?

3) "credited" used 2X! - The English language in wonderful in its variety. To use such a vanilla verb twice in the same sentence is just lazy, especially when so many better options are available for the second use: "originated", "advocated for", "greatly improved". These other verbs are preferable because they can be more specific about what this man's achievement actually was. Simply checking Wikipedia for Mr. Bellmont would help anyone in accurately describing his accomplishments.

4) “discover and create the Southwest Conference” – You cannot “discover” a sports conference! The Southwest Conference is a frackin’ football league not something dug up in Bolivia proving the existence of pocketknives in Pre-Columbian cultures. To describe it in this way, conflates his achievement by linking it connotatively to more scientifically rigorous accomplishments. Which is ridiculous & wrong. Compared to “discover”, the second use of “create” is almost acceptable. Except it is the second word used twice in ONE sentence. BUY A THESAURUS PEOPLE! A better phrasing would be, “founded and developed the Southwest Conference”.

Is it too much too ask for someone with an understanding of English sentence structure, grammar and vocabulary? Especially when using a University’s name, a University which presumes to have multiple experts in all of the aforementioned topics.

*is feeling very smug about having never donated to the Texas Alumni Association*

(For the record, my version of the sentence would read: "L. Theo Bellmont, who is credited with helping fund the construction of Memorial Stadium, also founded and developed the Southwest Conference.” Read it aloud and tell me it isn't 10x better than the original.)

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