Paterno passes the puck with passive voice

Joe Paterno ( AP Photo/Pat Litlle, 2009)

I just read read a piece online (link to article in quote), and I’m peeved. There’s a more powerful phrase that alliterates with today’s P’s: I’m pi**ed off.

Allow me my soap pox for the moment:

“Paterno ‘knew inappropriate action was taken by Jerry Sandusky with a youngster’ in 2002.”

“...knew inappropriate action was taken by…” WTP?

In this context, passive voice reduces the impact of Jerry Sandusky’s alleged criminal acts of pedophilia. Plus it pushes Paterno one step further from complicity. Preferable: “Paterno knew Jerry Sandusky took inappropriate action with youngster in 2002.”

And “youngster?” Please. Spare us that word choice, which subtly connotes playfulness, boys being boys, easy-going participation.  How about the truth? “Child.”

In a perfect world of words, paid spinmeisters protecting the powerful would be prohibited from “speaking” on behalf of their clients. Parterno would have to speak for himself. Perhaps, he’d stumble upon what ought to be put before the public:

“I knew Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile, that he abused a child in my facilities in 2002. I chose not to go to the police over the weekend.” 

Paterno is not the criminal in this case. But make no mistake: he’s complicit, and his posse is using the passive voice to propose Paterno’s complicity is, well, less complicit.

There. I’ve said my peace. I’m going outside now to play soccer, or ride bikes, or simply be present while my children enjoy a sunny day. I need to unplug and let my pessimism lessen amidst the innocent shouts and joys of childhood.

About Malcolm W Campbell

Father. Husband. Writer. Teacher. Outdoorsperson. And something else... Forgetful?
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5 Responses to Paterno passes the puck with passive voice

  1. Lisa says:

    Pretty pathetic prose….proverbial PR….passive voice too often used by the guilty for that reason….as Nicholson said in ?that movie? “You can’t handle the truth!”

    Have a Merry Christmas, Malcolm with your family!

  2. Jewel Beth Davis says:

    I’m so glad you picked up the passive voice in this sentence. It jumped out at me as soon as I read it. My students think passive voice is just one of my finicky, unnecessary composition issues. This proves otherwise. I will use this example with them next semester.
    Love to you and your family at the holidays, Malcolm.

    • Lisa says:

      Aside from the passive voice, “inappropriate” in this passage is ………. inappropriate.
      We were taught passive voice equals insipid prose…lack of honesty…unclear and empty words…”spin.” There’s so much spin today, maybe kids are numb to it. I hope they read more than they watch TV.

      • Jewel Beth Davis says:

        Well they don’t read. At all. At least my students don’t. I wish they would. But computer games are more their speed.

      • Lisa says:

        Sorry to hear you confirm that obvious fact…that explains so much, doesn’t it? Thanks for teaching them English and the joy of reading….the best service a teacher can give. Otherwise the dumbing of America will continue. What grade level do you teach? Growing up, I read short stories at home at bedtime. In 6th grade we had to choose a book from the huge shelf in our room to read whenever we had free time in the classroom….my introduction to Gulliver’s Travels and the wonder of reading. Lucky me….for having Mrs. Fiori in 6th grade.

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