Full Speed 'Ahead'!

Rob Kyff on

Some random dispatches from the Word Front ...

-- Off With Their "Aheads": When did "ahead of" start to replace "before"? A recent New York Times headline proclaimed "Xi Jinping Will Make First Visit to North Korea Ahead of Meeting With Trump," while NPR noted that the "Philippines' Duterte Remains Popular Ahead Of Midterm Elections," and a Washington Post weather report called for "some peeks of sun today ahead of rainier conditions Sunday."

Why are writers using two words to replace one? Perhaps they're trying to suggest the notion of getting "ahead of" a potential problem before it occurs. I keep waiting for this headline: "Workers protest ahead of lettuce boycott."

-- Find Your Trendy: A headline on a package of Lean Cuisine Swedish meatballs frozen dinner reads: "Feed Your Phenomenal." While I once owned a gerbil and sometimes feed a cardinal, I've never kept a phenomenal as a pet. Even so, I appreciated Lean Cuisine's reminder to feed your phenomenal when the critter gets hungry.

True, we've grown accustomed to the "find your" trope when the object is a noun; think of Starbucks' "Find Your Frappuccino," Nike's "Find Your Greatness," or Corona beer's "Find Your Beach." But what's with finding -- or feeding -- adjectives?

Fleet Feet Sports ads challenge you to "Find Your Strong," a fitness/dance studio is named "Find Your Fierce," eBay Fashion's slogan is "Find Your Perfect," and a recent book of daily mantras is titled "Find Your Happy." I wonder whether one of its entries is "I will seek my inner adjective."

-- Side-by-Sidesplitting: I've always enjoyed the clever juxtapositions of similar-sounding but totally different items. I was delighted the other day when a friend confessed his ignorance of the current Democratic presidential candidates by remarking: "I don't know Buttigieg from Beetlejuice."


Likewise, New York Times writer Alex Williams recently described hip millennials who toy with temperance as having "attitudes toward the hooch somewhere between Carrie Nation's and Carrie Bradshaw's." CBS newsman Charles Kuralt once commented that "Joe McCarthy didn't know Karl Marx from Groucho (Marx)."

During the 1964 U.S. Senate race in New York, the incumbent Kenneth Keating mocked his opponent, Robert Kennedy, for being a carpetbagger who knew nothing about the state. "Bobby thinks the Gowanus Canal is part of the lower intestinal tract," he said. "He thinks Tarrytown is a new brand of cigarette."

But Bobby had the last laugh; he won.


Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Copyright 2019 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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