word choice

Try to Remember Something

I'm reading that Dwight Freeney won't be re-signed by the Indianapolis Colts, and the following jumps out at me:

Freeney won battles on the line of scrimmage with his blazing speed and spin move, something teammates and opponents continue to try and emulate.

There are three problems in that sentence. The first one should have been an easy catch, either by the author or the editor. For some reason, in speaking, people sometimes say try and when of course they mean try to. The author doesn't mean that teammates and opponents both try and emulate, he means the emulation is something they try. While no one should feel ashamed for saying try and, no one should write it, either.

Problem two is not as easy to see. The world of computing is to blame for this problem, I think, because in computing, an emulator is a program that simulates the operation of another operating system or set of hardware. For example, you can get a Commodore 64 emulator for your PC and run all the old great C64 games (like Wizard, Lode Runner, etc.). But emulate actually means to try to meet or surpass. In other words, if you emulate a person, you are trying to do as well, or better, than that person did in a particular field. It makes no sense to try to emulate someone, because the word emulate already includes the idea that you are making an effort that might fail.

The third problem is something. This word is effectively some thing written as one word. If opponents and teammates are emulating Freeney's spin moves and speed, those are two things, not some thing.

Reading a sentence like that reminds me of a sad truth: writing well is hard work!

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