Tuesday, January 06, 2009

GMA-7's huge grammar problem

There it goes again. Eat, Bulaga! segment over, a trailer for Shake, Rattle & Roll 10 flashes onscreen, then the proud message: “Now on it's second week.”

What is wrong with GMA-7? Not a day ends that it doesn't remind us it's the number 1 TV network in the country. Its shows are ratings hits, its coffers are presumably bulging from all those ads, it pays its contract stars and network anchors plush salaries, it recently inaugurated a spanking-new, 900-million-peso building to punctuate all that high-flying success.

And yet it can't hire one decent copywriter or editor to check the blurbs it runs on TV?

I'm beginning to think that the network is in the thick of a clandestine campaign to redefine the rules of English grammar. How to account, after all, for its nonchalant and sustained mangling of the language, with nobody from its army of power executives and creative bright lights seeming to be bothered to correct the boo-boos?

In June 2008, I noted its use of the ungrammatical program ID “Pablo Gomez' Magdusa Ka.” Where the possessive S went, nobody knew. The wayward apostrophe reappears in Shake, Rattle & Roll's “Now on it's second week.” And when the movie Scaregivers was shown a couple of months back, it came with the tagline, “Now showing on theaters nationwide.”

At this point, let me anticipate something: As surely as a carnival seal will begin dancing at the flick of its handler's hand, some idiot will post a comment at the end of this piece denouncing me for being a “grammar police.” Well, what of it? Let's examine that argument. What's a grammar cop, anyway? Someone who's persnickety about verb agreements and tenses to the point of unreasonableness? Someone who obsesses about the lack of verbal polish to the exclusion of everything else?

Call me a grammar cop if, say, I laugh at your ungrammatical blog posts without any provocation, or I point out the mistakes in how you say something rather than acknowledging the basic valid point of what you're saying.

I've never done that, though. If you're writing for your own space and pleasure, far be it for me to mock you for your deficiencies in the English language, whatever they are. That's your call--though, to be fair, if you can't tell the difference between It's and Its, I don't think you should expect to be understood clearly by everyone every time.

At its most basic, grammar is about communicating clearly. Mess it up, and you mess up not only your message, but also the mind of the poor chap you're talking to.

But we're not talking here of blogs or personal journals, where you can eviscerate grammar to your heart's content and no one would care--least of all Mr. Grammar Police here. We're talking of the number 1 TV station in the country. We're talking of a network whose reach and influence covers millions of viewers here and even abroad--an ocean of impressionable minds who, lamentable a development as it is, get much of their daily practical learning from TV.

Not only are they gorging on vapid, insipid TV shows now, they're also reading badly-written blurbs! Which, because they're punchier and shorter, tend to stick to the mind more easily. And which, not knowing any better, viewers will then repeat down the line.

This is not just a question of sticking to the rules of grammar. This is about the implications of how we use language. Words have meaning. Words have consequences. If GMA-7 is this sloppy when it comes to basic copywriting, where else is it slapdash and careless? In its news gathering and dissemination? In its professed fidelity to truth-telling? In its claims to honest ratings and fair competition? Screw any aspirations to excellence, then, anyway “its” all the same banana?

As for the sadly ill-informed who thinks getting worked up over apostrophes and prepositions on TV is much ado about nothing, I have a challenge for him or her: Personal pronouns, too, are part of grammar. You know, words like He, She and It--He and She referring to human beings, It to non-human beings or things, or so the rule goes.

If grammar is that unimportant to him or her--and, I repeat, the use of pronouns, too, is part of grammar--then let's disregard the rules from now on and start using It when referring to that person. Not He or She, but It--anyway, why follow the rules? Down with grammar! Let's, in effect, put him or her on the same level as a plant, a rock, a fly. That simple. Any takers?


beektur said...

Love the second paragraph. Para bang eto ang "its its". Iiiiiit's...Bulaga!

Have you read Eats Shoots and Leaves? Hysterical.

Happy New Year. Hope it's (its? eats? itch?) a good one so far.

Writista said...

Wow, those are pretty atrocious errors. I wonder if ABS-CBN can catch up. :p

erasmusa said...

will let Gomez' pass because The Elements of Style will back them up on that one. but then you realize how important grammar is when you pass by stores on the way to Tagaytay:
Bird's for sale
Plant's for sale
Fruit's stand

homaygulayatprutas! maybe the signmaker is a kapuso.

waltzang said...

fault ba ng gma yun or ng regal films? was the title card for promoting the movie done by gma or regal?

kung promo items i can somewhat let it pass pa, pero i saw an episode of studio 23's news central where the anchor said "anyways"

anyways daw! on a news show! nakakatakot!

pero 2009 na, may gyera sa gaza strips, lets lives and lets lives! after all, its mights be a blessings in the sky! = ) joke lang pow.

TheBachelorGirl said...

May I admit that I deliberately omit the occasional apostrophe, comma and period for SEO purposes? LOL. I noticed it makes a huge difference.

r-yo said...

he he. wait till you see the synopses on TFC shows. I'm sure you'll have a heart attack! he he

Anonymous said...

hay naku, that's GMA 7. One stormy morning last year, I was watching the news about the storm and there was this news bar running on the lower part of the screen while Unang Hirit was on-going. The announcement went "Metro Manila PUBIC storm no. 2 classes suspended on all levels" I was so ashamed of it that I immediately dialed the hotline flashing on screen and told them to correct their spelling. Well, they did just that, to my relief. gawd, what if there were foreigners watching the news? Ha ha ha! The Philippines is having a pubic storm! (excuse the language)

Rody Vera said...

This from Elements of Style. Emphasis mine.

"Form the possessive singular of nouns with 's.

Follow this rule WHATEVER THE FINAL CONSONANT. Thus write,

Charles's friend
Burns's poems
the witch's malice

This is the usage of the United States Government Printing Office and of the Oxford University Press.

Exceptions are the possessives of ancient proper names in -es and -is, the possessive Jesus', and such forms as for conscience' sake, for righteousness' sake. But such forms as Achilles' heel, Moses' laws, Isis' temple are commonly replaced by

the heel of Achilles
the laws of Moses
the temple of Isis

The pronominal possessives hers, its, theirs, yours, and oneself have no apostrophe."

We all presume Pablo Gomez is not that ancient. and whatever conscience he has is the same as ours. So I vote apostrophe s!

erasmusa said...

my bad, sir! i couldn't find my copy this morning (i tried) and my memory played a trick on me. *blush*

missingpoints said...

Hmmm. It has a point.

drei said...

ei gibbs, alam ko if the noun has more than one syllable, you can opt to take away the S after the apostrophe. and the S is pronounced only in the case of one syllable nouns, e.g. Luz's bag, Jess's chair. i remember this rule for nouns ending in Z or S, but then that was 1993 so rules may have changed hehe

just dropping by to say happy new year, and i'm excited for the two upcoming productions of atlantis!!! may soundtrack ka ng spelling bee? i only found that of spring awakening.


Anonymous said...

hay naku...ganun talaga sa gma 7 last time nga nakakatawa kasi somebody is interviewed sa isang celebrity show nila..tapos may nakalagay sa screen na parang something like "what are the things you did on chrismas day?" pero yung interviewee ang pagbigkas naman niya eh "kristmas"

Gilbert Yap Tan said...

Hi Tukayong Gibbs. Happy new year! Whenever I hear celebs inviting everyone to WATCH OUT for their new cd, movie, play, concert, etc., I AVOID them at all cost! Now comes the invitation to WATCH OUT FOR their new gigs! Sheesh!

waltzang said...

what about people who spell "homebody" as "homebuddy"? nakakatawa! (at nakakatakot din).

or when they say "you have nothing to worry" diba dapat "you have nothing to worry about"?

or people who put their periods outside of the close quotation mark, hahaha!

Batman said...

Nakalulungkot, totoo. Subalit mas nakalulungkot isipin na mismong sarili nating wika ay di kayang gamitin ng maayos ng mga nagtatrabaho sa telebisyon.

Tuwing naririnig ko ang isang reporter na nag-uulat tungkol sa mga kaganapan (event, happening) na kanyang nasasaksihan, gusto kong magbaril sa sentido.

Ang kaganapan po ay FULFILLMENT.

Just Me said...

Whoa!! Lapses? I don't think so, here's another glaring booboo:

Unang Hirit Dec 30, 2008. Regine Tolentino kept on saying, we are "celebrating the death of dr. jose rizal".. as in.. wtf!!??!! since when do we celebrate death? i've wanted so much to call them but i remember plurking it instead. tell me if am wrong, regine should have used "commemorating" as it was appropriate at that time.

Howie said...

This interesting discussion, and the original post that did the e-groups rounds, made me take out my style and English grammar books. On the mangling of "its" and "it's" there is no debate. But the grammar police community still disagrees over the use of s after the possessive apostrophe.

My idol Rody Vera cites Strunk's 1918 edition of Elements of Style, but language usage changes over time; my copy of the fourth edition (now Strunk and White) is missing and is not online so I'm not sure what it says on this matter.

But another common office reference, The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, has this to say: "Although names ending in s or an s sound are not required to have the second s added in possessive form, it is preferred:
Mr. Jones's golf clubs
Texas' weather
Jose Sanchez's artwork..."

In her best-selling book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves (2003), the British doyen of punctuation Lynne Truss pronounces that "there are no absolute rights and wrongs in this matter." (page 57)

Gibbs's (or is that Gibbs'?) voluntary role of grammar police of TV english is much appreciated. But if the absent s from "Pablo Gomez' Magdusa Ka" is one of his best examples of "GMA's huge grammar problem," then the network may not have too much to worry about. (I'm sure there are better examples)

Disclosure: I host a couple of programs on GMA7, but I write here primarily as a reader and big admirer of Gibbs' (Gibbs's) blog. (I prefer "Gibbs'" myself)

Nobe said...

fuuny i didn't notice that until i read this blog. hahaha!



Anonymous said...

Eat Bulaga ang may mali, hindi GMA 7. Hindi kontrolado ng GMA ang material na inilalabas ng Eat Bulaga kasi blocktimer lang ang EB, hindi sila station-produced. The best that GMA can do is to inform Eat Bulaga people (or TAPE Office, EB's production house) to correct the error. But obviously, di pa ginagawa ng GMA yun. Re: Magdusa Ka, yun ang nasa responsibility ng GMA. Pero ang mas malala ay yung mga mali ng GMA promos sa Pinoy grammar mismo. Nakakahiya kung may mali sa English grammar. Pero mas nakakahiya na magkamali sa sa sarili natin grammar.

Anonymous said...

Hehe. Last sentence should be: Pero mas nakakahiya na magkamali sa sarili nating grammar. Thanks!

Rody Vera said...

Hi idol Howie!!! at the risk of being tagged as a grammar prude (if there ever is such a thing), I hailed this "possessive" issue to a higher court. this time The 14th Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. I know there's a 15th editioin out already but, here's what the 14th ed had to say:

" 6.24 Proper nouns: The general rule for the possessive of nouns convers most proper nouns, including most names ending in sibilants... (eg: Kansas's, Burns's poems, Marx's theories, Berlioz's opera, Dickens's novel, etc etc.)

6.25 For names ending in silent s, z, or x the possessive, unlike the plural, can generally be formed in the usual way without suggesting an incorrect pronunciation: (eg. Margaux's bouquet, Descartes's works.)"

Exception also states the same re; Jesus and Moses

But here: 6.27 provides an interesting exception:

"Names of more than one syllable with an unaccented ending pronunced eez form another category of exceptions. Many Greek and hellenized names fit the patern. For reasons of euphony the possessive s is seldom added to such names: eg Euripedes' plays, Xerxes' army, Charles Yerkes; benefactions, R.S. Surtees' novels."

I really don't share the fastidiousness of a grammar policeman. I normally allow anyone to commit horrible grammatical errors from copywriters to beauty pageant contestant, especially if they commit them in a language they're not totally comfotable with. But yes, I enjoy laughing at them too! So I guess I'm just in this for the hilarity of it. hehe.

and yes, it's a good opportunity to double check what we presume we already know. by the way, I quoted Strunk's elements of style from the 1998 revised edition.

Howie said...

Idol Rody,
I don't want to make this a debate between grammar books ; ).
But I think this discussion proves the point: on the issue of the possessive s after nouns ending in z and s, there is no clear consensus. And if a so-called infraction of this contentious rule is one of Gibbs'/ Gibbs's best examples of "GMA's huge grammar problem," isn't he in a sense engaging in a bit of hyperbole?

Surely, after years of watching TV, he can come up with a more egregious example, especially if there is an intent to circulate that particular post beyond this blog.

Howie said...

By the way, I'm not saying there's no problem at all. There is, and Gibbs Cadiz'/Cadiz's post has caused some reflection on the blurb writing process.

But the grammar police also have a duty to prove beyond reasonable doubt before pronouncing anyone guilty of grammar crimes.

The other issue here is who is really responsible for faulty blurb writing? Is it the movie company that produced the blurbs and paid for the ad, or the network that aired it? Do newspapers edit the copy in ads that they publish? Should I blame newspaper editors for the grammatical mistakes found in some open letters published in purchased space?

Rody Vera said...

nitpicking is the word i'm looking for, idol Howie. i was nitpicking. no debate. arms raised! haha. Well, policemen do tend to interpret rules. But proving beyond reasonable doubt is the job of lawyers and hmmm, plaintiffs (or even U.S. visa appplicants-- hehe).

I think Gibbs is pointing his finger at the networks and the film producers because if they have the priviledge to omit/censor issues/themes more substantive than the use of the English language, why can't they be just as thorough with ensuring its proper use? Hmmm. Wait. Is that Gibbs or maybe I'm insinuating my own opinion?

Newspaper editors, I believe, carry that responsibility even more. Because newspapers deal with texts more than TV. (print nga, e di ba?) when I read horribly written theater reviews in the newspaper, for instance (wink wink). I blame the writer AND the editor. with regards to open letters: Can't customers submit their texts to proofreaders, at the very least?? Or can't editors point out glaring errors, you know, especially the kind that would deprive you of sleep if you don't correct them? But, i guess, open letters have that invisible shield that goes along with the purchase (power of money). and if that happens, newspaper editors can do nothing but stand back and hope that grammar police out there would see the silent crime.

so i guess, the real issue is not the grammar problem... but the power that went with it.

gibbs cadiz said...

salamat for sharing your thoughts, FRIENDS! howie, you're right. the "huge" in the head is overwrought. i got carried away--not an excuse, though. :)

Howie said...

You're on the right track Gibbs, because too few look at what television does with a keen and critical eye. I hope you examine other aspects of what may be our society's most powerful cultural influence.

I can say the same about media in general. Idol Rody makes the correct point that the bottom line in this discussion is media's power for good and ill. Too many accept what media does and says (or is that do and say?) without question, so even grammatical lapses repeated often enough in media can eventually become the norm in the way ordinary people use language.

Anonymous said...

Okay, here's another one.

Which is right: the Philippines' or the Philippines's?

Kinda tricky because "the Philippines" started out a plural noun, but is now a singular.

Alexander said...

Great eye. You should also check out the network's news programs as such shows almost always have a 2 minute allocation for protesters who seem to have something to complain about. I'm beginning to think that such participants are on retainer.

Rody Vera said...

Hi Anonymous,

I must say the answer is the Philippines'.

the Economist.com Style Guide has this to say and it sounds convincing.

"Although singular in other respects, the United States, the United Nations, the Philippines, etc, have a plural possessive apostrophe: eg, Who will be the United States' next president? "

you might want to check for yourself here at


sorry, di ako nakatulog, kailangan ko rin malaman ang sagot.

J said...

samantala, sa ABS-CBN naman, kawawa ang wikang sariling atin. Hay ang 2 networks na ito.

www.thestorynook.blogspot.com said...

A five-year-old boy accidentally shot dead his father and wounded his mother inside their house in Quezon City, on Sunday Father’s Day, police said.---inq7.net

“Boy accidentally shoots dad dead;” or “A five-year-old boy accidentally shot his father dead …” would have been a better sentence construction, I think.

Anonymous said...

Nakakatawa and pero nakakabahala din. Pero kung tutuusin,why blame the TV network kung mistake naman yun ng staff? Siguro they're not that strict lang talaga. Tignan mo nga si REGINE VELASQUEZ, kumanta ng "Listen" na mali-mali ang lyrics...."Listen..I am the dog who leaves you..blah..blah..blah.."

Wala naman sigurong perfect na tao. Kahit nga yung mga comments may errors eh. Even Americans nagkakamali, mas malala pa sa mga Filipinos..

Personally, sa tingin ko hindi sila dapat pagtawanan..Pero tama din naman na napaguusapan para ma-correct nila.

Andrei Alba said...

napansin ko rin ang it's na yan, pero di ba yung nagpalagay ng commercial ang dapat sisihin dun?

Anonymous said...

dami kasi nagdudunungdungan diyan sa tv station na yan, karamihan daw kasi sa kanila taga-UP. :D

Anonymous said...

i don't get to watch as much tv as i used to, so i've never encountered these instances as of late.

with that, i agree with howie that we should be critical with what we watch. a keen eye on what we see on tv (and other media) is important because it reaches millions in a snap. if such errors are repeatedly committed, that says something about the people behind those blurbs in a very bad light. the media serves primarily to inform, also to entertain, but ultimately TO EDUCATE.

this is dino. hi everyone! newbie, don't have a google account.

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