Daily Archives: March 1, 2010

Questioning Your Language Ability

Over the weekend I had the splendid opportunity to read for hours on end.  I love traveling in the car because DH is a driver not a rider, the duct tape works well on the kids the kids are fairly self-sufficent and I don’t get motion sickness. 

In addition, our closest rellies live two and a half hours away, so car time is akin to heaven for me.  Until Saturday when I ran across a sentence in a book that made my reading pleasure come to a screeching halt.

It bothered my so much I couldn’t let it go.  Three days later I’m still obsessing over it, so I thought I would bring it to you, my dear readers and fellow writers. 

The offending passage was this: They banned together against me in deciding to sell the farm.

Now I didn’t major in English, creative writing or any sort of language arts that would make me an expert on the subject, but this sentence threw me.  I read it.  Reread it.  Contemplated my definitions of banned and band.  Checked with the dictionary (thank you Kindle for the instantaneous and in depth definitions) and reread the entire page surrounding the questionable sentence.

Then I read it out  loud to DH, with the spelling lost in the verbal translation.  Even so, he made that face that told me the sentence sounded off.  Maybe.

Sheesh.  This sentence drove me to drink my dessert coffee this morning sans the hazlenut creamer.  I needed the strong stuff to get me through.

Now your job is to tell me if I am a writing failure taking my angst out on a pubbed author an English failure, or if this sentence really should have been rewritten.

My definition of banned (of which Webster kindly concurred) is that banned is the past tense of ban, which really means to exclude and is typically used in the sense of exclude from something.  Hence, the sentence would read something like this:

They excluded together against me in the decision to sell the farm.

My question is thus: doesn’t ban need an object?  IE–they banned me from the ball game after I flipped the ref the birdie.  Or, I have been banned from the library because I don’t know the meaning of shhhhshhhhshush.   

Likewise, am I wrong in my assumption that the banned the author wanted (and the editor let slip), is in fact band?

As in a combination of a thin strip of flexible material used to encircle and bind one object or to hold a number of objects together: a metal band around the bale of cotton and something that constrains or binds morally or legally: the bands of marriage and family?  And maybe even tissue that connects or holds structures together?  As defined here.

Should the sentence be: They banded against me in deciding to sell the farm?  (came together)

Or, They banned me from the decision to sell the farm?  (excluded)
 
I simultaneously love and hate reading somthing that makes me question my language ability.  I love that it stretches my understanding of the written word.  I hate when it bothers me so much I can’t function until I figure it out.  Even more so, I hate when I’m wrong.  But that’s beside the point.
Right now, I need some sort of validation that tells me my inner ear was right in hearing this sentence wrong, or I need someone to set me straight so I don’t mistakenly submit a manuscript with my incorrect version of the truth.
Banned or band?  Which is it and why?
Also, what kinds of things make you question your language ability?  Share examples of other tricky words/phrases that can help other writers on their journey.