Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The President Makes Grammatical Errors Too! Tenet vs. Tenant and Obamas Tucson Speech

The President Makes Grammatical Errors Too! Tenet vs. Tenant and Obamas Tucson Speech I got an email from my friend Seth Nowak on January 13, 2011 reporting, â€Å"Obama said ‘tenent’ in his speech last night.   One term president.† The speech to which Seth was referring is the moving, poignant speech Obama delivered following the shooting rampage in Tucson.   Obviously Seth was joking to me, The Essay Expert, that a small error like mixing up â€Å"tenet† with â€Å"tenant† would affect (not effect) Obama’s approval rating. Just a few days before, I had corrected Seth when he said â€Å"tenent† (or â€Å"tenant† he was speaking not writing, so I can’t be sure) when he meant â€Å"tenet.†Ã‚   Thus he could not help but notice Obama’s slip of tongue. To clarify, â€Å"tenet† means â€Å"any opinion, principle, doctrine, dogma, etc., esp. one held as true by members of a profession, group, or movement.† A tenant, on the other hand, is a person, a group of persons, or an entity occupying a space, usually a rental space (my definition). â€Å"Tenent† is not a word in modern English, though in the interests of full disclosure, it is listed on as â€Å"Obs.† (Obsolete).   It does not appear anywhere in the dictionary on my shelf, Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (copyright 1987, the year I headed to college – and if that’s not obsolete, I don’t know what is). Obama’s spoken sentence was as follows: â€Å"They were fulfilling a central tenant[sic] of the democracy envisioned by our founders.† The transcriber was kind to our President.   The text â€Å"tenant[sic]† does not appear in the transcription; instead, the official version in The New York Times reads, â€Å"They were fulfilling a central tenet.† The day before Obama’s speech, I had put â€Å"tenant/tenet† on my list of Top 10 Grammatical Errors of 2011 (scheduled for publication in December 2011).   Why?   Because inside of one week in January, not including Obama’s speech, I heard â€Å"tenant† used incorrectly twice: once by Seth as reported above, and once in a draft of a law school application essay.   I won’t quote that essay here for reasons of confidentiality, but here’s an example of a sentence in a draft law school application essay I received a year ago: â€Å"The general tenants of my thesis was that developing a national childcare system would contribute to the economy and better the lives of all Canadians.† This sentence has two problems:   First, she meant â€Å"tenet†; and second, even if â€Å"tenants† were correct, the verb â€Å"was† is singular whereas â€Å"tenants† is plural.   This client was not accepted into any Canadian law schools, despite the fact that her errors were corrected.   She did get accepted in England. The moral of the story:   If you want to get into law school, or be elected for a second term, get straight about the difference between â€Å"tenet† and â€Å"tenant.†Ã‚   I understand that â€Å"n† sound just wants to come out somehow, but try to keep it in check. So what do you think?   One term or two?   Perhaps that’s really the important question here.

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