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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

E-rate getting stronger

I've posted a couple of times lately about my feelings on the spelling of "E-Rate." Well, things seem to be taking another turn that I don't like. I always say "the E-Rate," as in: "The E-Rate is the greatest thing since sliced bread." But I'm seeing the "the" omitted more often.

Today I saw it in an old post by the Education Director of the National Broadband Plan. He said, "Thanks to E-Rate, virtually all our schools and libraries are connected." [Not at all true: the E-Rate has largely bypassed libraries and private schools, but that's another rant.] It also appeared in the FCC's Community Use Order: "In this order, the Commission waives ... rules that currently discourage public use of resources funded by E-rate." (Usually, the FCC uses the term "the E-rate program," which finesses the question of whether "E-rate" is anarthrous.)

The vanishing definite article is common government-speak. For example, Peace Corps employees don't call it "the Peace Corps." They say things like, "I work for Peace Corps," which sounds odd to anyone who doesn't work for Peace Corps. Listen to government employees talk about their agencies and programs, and you'll notice the definite article disappearing often.

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language calls a proper noun which doesn't require an article a "strong proper noun." So at least in one way, E-rate is getting stronger.

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