Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Allegedly perpetrating a crime

It was the third time this week the reporter had stood in the middle of the street to report a bank robbery by saying, “The alleged perpetrator exited the building, hopped in a getaway car and took off at a high rate of speed and is still at large.” The first time I heard this I laughed. This was a professional reporter whose eloquence is supposed to set an example. Where did this guy learn his English? By the third time he said this I called the station to complain. There must be hundreds of English teachers cringing every time they turn on the news and listen to a reporter trying to sound as tough (and as stupid) as the first cop on the scene. “The alleged perpetrator of the crime,” he said. Is he really questioning the commission of a crime? According to Merriam-Webster word alleged means “said without proof, to have taken place.” He could have just said, “After robbing the bank the perpetrator hopped in a car and left the scene.” Not as dramatic but more accurate if you actually believe the cops that someone robbed the bank.

Why did the perpetrator have to take off at a “high rate of speed?” Allow me to parse this abomination. Speed is already a rate as measured in miles per hour, inches per second, etc. So a high rate of speed should mean that the speed is changing quickly. Isn’t that called acceleration? The reporter could have said: “The robber ran out of the bank, hopped in his getaway car and got away leaving a trail of burning rubber in his wake.”

He could have said that but then he would have sounded smarter than the cop he interviewed.

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