No apologies

Please add to your list of proscribed lame devices this example from an Associated Press article describing a rare snowfall in Baghdad:

For a couple of hours anyway, a city where mortar shells routinely zoom across to the Green Zone became united as one big White Zone. As of late afternoon, there were no reports of violence. The snow showed no favoritism as it fell faintly on neighborhoods Shiite and Sunni alike, and (with apologies to James Joyce) upon all the living and the dead.

The other merits, if any, of this length of prose aside, with apologies to is a construction that a writer uses to identify an allusion that he fears the reader might not catch. It's a written equivalent of a nudge in the ribs.

If you lack confidence that your readers will catch an allusion, you probably shouldn’t make it.

With apologies to is also the construction commonly used to introduce an imitation of a well-known poem or other work of art. Most such parodies fail to impress — and if you doubt me, you can look up the feeble items disclosed on a Google search of the phrase “with apologies to Robert Frost.” Mr. Frost doesn’t need your apologies, but it would be good of you to shut up.


Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad