Inside D.C. entertainment

The Washington Post loves to 'boast'

February 1, 2012 - 01:25 PM
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Emily Wax' article Monday about Cultural Tourism DC's efforts to promote local history, "Heritage trails mark the path to preserving D.C. history," contains all sorts of interesting facts. For instance: Granville Moore’s, the H Street bar, was named after a well-known black doctor who lived in that building in the 1950s. And: Deaf football players at Gallaudet University invented the huddle, as a way of concealing their signs.

The article also happens to contain one of the most annoying stylistic crutches at the Post, and I'm not talking about "young people with laptops, sipping lattes" being shorthand for gentrification — though the article does contain that, too. Rather, it's this:

The H Street route, 'Hub, Home, Heart: The Greater H Street NE Heritage Trail,' is scheduled to open this spring and will boast 3.2 miles of history.

Does it really boast, though? Not in the first sense of the word, for a trail has no larynx, and thus, is incapable of bragging about mileage or any of its other, supposedly impressive qualities. One could make an argument for the second definition — "a cause for pride" — though such pride could only be felt by those who created the trail, not the trail itself. Even still, I am not very impressed by the length of this walking route. If it were a crawling route, perhaps.

The Post isn't alone in its overuse of "boast," but I expect better from our local publication of record than I do from, say, the Washington Times. Maybe that's my failing. Nonetheless, let's take a look at other recent abuses of "boast" in the paper. All emphases are mine.

• "Gingrich’s advisers also say the campaign boasts the most comprehensive list of Republican voters — and where they caucus — of any operation in Nevada." — "Newt Gingrich’s Nevada campaign appears in disarray," by Amy Gardner, Feb. 1

• "But [Newt Gingrich] boasts another noteworthy asset: billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, a top supporter who has given a pro-Gingrich group $10 million and is being closely watched to see whether more is on the way." — "Can Mitt Romney be stopped in Nevada?," by Amy Gardner, Jan. 31

• "[Montrose Christian] boast All-Met forward Michael Carrera and second-team All-Met forward Justin Anderson, a Virginia recruit." — "Boys’ basketball: Coolidge’s win over Montrose a game-changer?," by James Wagner, Jan. 30

• "[MissionLink] also boasts an advisory board of former high-ranking officials at defense and intelligence agencies." — "MissionLink adds smaller companies for second class," by Marjorie Censer, Jan. 29

• "But that shouldn’t be a problem when Skream & Benga return to Washington for a gig at U Street Music Hall, which boasts the finest sound system in the city." — "Spring preview — Pop music: Concerts are unusual but promising," by Chris Richards, Jan. 27

• "If Hirayama lacks the sly perspectives of his 19th-century predecessors, he boasts colors that are far bolder." — "Jonathan Monaghan twists video games in exhibit at Curator’s Office," by Mark Jenkins, Jan. 26

I could keep going, but as you can see from this list, which boasts six examples from the past seven days, the Post's second-definition use of the word is nearly a daily occurrence. I don't mean to single out these writers*, some of whom I admire; they just happen to be the most recent offenders. We all have bad habits about which we're unaware — I use em-dashes much too often, especially for parenthetical clauses — but this is one that must die. Let's leave the boasting to boxers and Marion Barry.

*Except Amy Gardner, who used the word on back-to-back days.

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