Put it to me this way
September 28, 2009
A loyal unspeak.net reader writes:
There’s a New Yorker turn of phrase that is really annoying me: “put it to me this way”. As in: “Recently, a woman in the crowd at a Nine Inch Nails show at Terminal 5, in New York, put it to me this way… [insert banal made-up quote].” ((Legal disclaimer: I’m sure my source did not mean to imply that the particular quote that follows in the article in question was “made-up” — and nor do I! — just, I take it, that an unscrupulous journalist could make up such a quote.))
Yes, that is annoying! My correspondent did not say why he thought it annoying; but I will say why I do, now that it’s been pointed out to me. Considering it arguendo in the worst possible light, a writer’s choice to say that a person “put it to me this way” — rather than, I don’t know, “said”? — bespeaks an egotistical claim of priority over whatever the hapless interviewee happens to have blurted. I had already thought of this, of course, the sage writer implies; and then — look, how cute are the ordinary citizenry! — a civilian put it to me this way. Not telling me anything I didn’t already know, of course, but using an adorably demotic turn of phrase that really adds some colour and credibility to my reporting?
Thus does the writer of “put it to me this way” argue that, in his phat brain, he already understood everything that it was possible to say on the subject the moment he accepted the assignment, and the actual research involved merely a stately roll-call of patsies who would affirm his interpretive genius.
Which way would you put it to me, readers?