BY B. JAY COOPER
Reprinted from BJayCooper.com
Those who know me will tell you that I can be quite obnoxious when it comes to word usage. Use a word in a weird way and I’ll do an annoying rant for hours. Let me be clear, I am not a grammarian. I am not good at punctuation (I once lost a promotion because I was told I didn’t know how to use commas.) But I do favor plain English and not bastardizing the language to puff myself up.
All that as background before I rail about “take a listen” which I hear nearly every time I turn on a newscast lately. Chuck Todd just said “take a listen” on NBC’s Nightly News as he introduced a piece. I think every reporter on CNN used it 40 gazillion times in the days since the Boston Bombing as they directed us to “take a listen” to the gunfights. Wolf Blitzer said it almost as many times as he told us he had “breaking news” when he didn’t. (And almost as many times as he’s told us CNN has the best political team on television. Which it doesn’t.)
If a reporter would take the time to look up “listen” in a dictionary (but that would involve research and I don’t think they have time for that anymore), they would learn that listen is a verb, not a noun. You cannot take a listen to a movie (if you did, what is the admission price?); you cannot take a listen to the beach (do they wear a one-piece or two?). You can listen. Oh my, you mean if I just said “listen to this,” it would be the same as saying “take a listen” and use the same amount of words? And, on top of it all, it would be correct English? Yes, duckies, that is what I is what I am saying.
You can take a vacation. You can a break. You can even take a bathroom break. You cannot take a listen — where would you take it?
Editor’s Note: B. Jay Cooper is a former White House deputy press secretary and former head of communications at the Republican National Committee, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Yale University. He also was a reporter at the Waterbury (Conn.) Republican-American. He is deputy managing director of the Washington, D.C., office of APCO Worldwide.