LIANE HANSEN, host:
As for election news in this country, Barack Obama won the Wyoming Democratic caucuses yesterday, beating Hillary Clinton by a wide margin. In another closely watched election in the Chicago suburbs, former GOP House speaker Dennis Hastert's Congressional seat was won by a Democrat.
Bill Foster captured 53 percent of the votes against GOP opponent Jim Oberweis in a district that has long been held by Republicans. Democrats say it's a sign of things to come on the national scene, while Republicans say they're not worried.
And NPR's senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr, says now is the time for the candidates and the media to concentrate on the linguistics of their politics.
DANIEL SCHORR: Call it fuddy-duddy, if you like, but indulge me in a few pet peeves about language usage by politicians, and yes, the media. This, with a bow to my friend Bill Safire, the reigning usage maven.
First, about the recent squabbled between the Obama and Clinton camps over the ad showing a hypothetical 3:00 a.m. phone call to the White House. Who do you want answering the phone, they say. Whatever the crisis, I would like them to say, whom do you want answering the phone? Grammar 101. You know, Ernest Hemingway did not write For Who the Bell Tolls.
Then the word nation. The media report that President Bush has landed in the nation of Liberia. No, he has landed not in a nation, which is a social concept, but in a country, which is a geographical concept. The nation may also have organized itself into a state. But you land in a country, not in a nation.
Then a phrase, which is on its way to becoming a cliché, up for grabs. In its original meaning up for grabs was meant to denote some disorganized situation in which there was just no way of telling who might end up with a majority of votes or supporters, whatever.
But up for grabs has evolved into a catchall phrase for in contention. So now it's customary to hear that so many convention delegates are up for grabs in the primary contest. They are not up for grabs. It is known who the contenders are. There may be so many delegates at stake, but they are not up for grabs.
One last word: the commonly used protest of some action. Wrong. To protest is to proclaim or announce, as methinks thou dost protest too much. What you mean is to protest against.
I'm not sure how many people care about language usage in the political arena. But I would like to see a little elegance in the words of the politicians and the media.
This is Daniel Schorr.
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