Systematic wanting

« previous post | next post »

Says Bagehot, the pseudonym-cloaked correspondent of The Economist who writes a page of comment on British affairs every week (25 June 2016, p. 27 in Brexit-delayed UK edition; not present in the US edition dated June 25):

As early as January a top Brexiteer freely admitted to Bagehot that his campaign planned to turn the public against its leaders; it wanted systematically to delegitimise Britain's pro-EU political, bureaucratic and business elites.

Is that the first time you've heard anyone talking about systematic wanting? It's a first for me. But of course The Economist is just sticking to its dreadful policy of syntactic self-harm, by mechanically moving adverbs to the left so that they don't follow to in an infinitival complement.

What Bagehot really wanted to talk about is systematic delegitimization. He should have written it wanted to systematically delegitimise Britain's pro-EU political, bureaucratic and business elites. But I guess Bagehot has to follow the style guide rules, like everyone else at Economist Plaza. Except for the very few who manage to slip a case past the grammar sensors.

The sad thing is that obedience to the rule detracts from clarity rather than enhancing it. If some mechanical stylistic transformation that isn't a requirement of the syntax of the language really helped understanding, I would at least be able to see why they applied it. But the opposite is happening here.

Comments are closed.