Monday, October 22, 2012

Playing the Blame Game

Here’s an odd juxtaposition of wording to attribute blame:

Lightning Blamed on Fire at Venezuela Refinery

That was a headline for a September AP story that opened with the line:

A fire that broke out at a Venezuelan oil refinery was apparently caused by a lightning strike…

Now, I’ve been taught a specific syntax for placing blame, and that syntax is dependent upon the pronoun used. For example:

(result) blamed on (cause)

(cause) blamed for (result)

As written, the AP headline says that the fire caused lightning, but the first sentence clearly states that lightning caused the fire. Thus, the headline should have been:

Fire at Venezuela Refinery Blamed on Lightning; or

Venezuela Refinery Fire Blamed on Lightning; or

Lightning Blamed for Fire at Venezuela Refinery

What’s curious to me is that I’ve run across this strange syntax several times in recent months. In one instance, a news radio announcer said something like:

“A moth is being blamed on a car crash…”

In fact, the moth was the cause of the crash, not the result of it. (Apparently some people freak out when a little bug starts flapping inside their windshield…) The announcer should have said the crash was blamed on the moth, or the moth was blamed for the crash.

I don’t know if there is a change to the English language in the making, or if people are just not paying attention to what they’re saying and writing. The latter would be my guess, but I find it curious that this particular oddity keeps appearing. 

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