I was just doing one of my favorite things in life — reading the Telegraph blogs. The bloggers are some of the best political writers around, including Daniel Hannan, Toby Young, Dan Hodges, and Graeme Archer. Then there’s a guy called Tom Chivers.
Actually, I would never say that, but Tom Chivers would. He begins a post, “There’s a piece in the National Review by a guy called Kevin D Williamson.” That’s what you do when you want to put a person down. You don’t say, “I disagree with what John Smith wrote.” You say, “I disagree with what someone named John Smith wrote.” You have belittled him off the bat. It is one of the rudest, snottiest, and most immature of all journalistic practices.
A funny thing is that Chivers’s post is dedicated to calling a piece by Kevin rude.
One or two further points: Chivers says “the National Review,” like everyone else. We have been trying to discourage that definite article for almost 60 years — we’re National Review — but in vain.
After “a guy called Kevin D Williamson,” Chivers writes, “It [the piece by a guy called Kevin D. Williamson that Chivers objects to] is one of those pieces that is written solely to provoke outrage from milquetoast liberals like me.” I know from reading him that Chivers likes grammar, so let me say, as our founder, William F. Buckley Jr., would say, that that ought to be “one of those pieces that are written solely . . .” No one says that, except for a few of us weirdos, and people will correct you, incorrectly, if you do, but it’s still right.
There are British peculiarities, though, even as there are American ones. You know what Brits say? They say “try and.” The best of them do. All of NR’s own British writers do, and they are among the best: DP-J, JO’S, Paul Johnson, all of them. They all say “try and” — “try and go to the store,” “try and be home by 6,” “try and do your best.” It’s absolutely wrong, but kinda cute.
Anyway, if Tom Chivers knew a guy called Kevin D. Williamson, he would be a lucky person indeed — as am I, as are the rest of his colleagues and friends.
P.S. One more thought — the word “one.” That’s another belittler. You don’t say “a piece by John Smith” but “a piece by one John Smith.” The “one” is so, so snotty. The person who writes it is holding his nose, as he types the detested name. I think I wrote “one” once or twice when I was quite young, and soon saw how reprehensible it is.
P.P.S. Of course, there are benign and charming uses of “one”: “The best singer of that song, of course, is one Ella Fitzgerald” — even “a woman named Ella Fitzgerald.”