May 18, 2012

Misidentification of the passive is not prudent

I've complained more than once about the bad rap the passive voice is getting in style manuals. What's most annoying is that the people who would like to see the passive banned often have no clue what they are talking about. The result can be seen in this excerpt, from an advice column in Slate magazine (highlighting by me):
Dear Prudence,I've come to understand that some misbehavior is common among men who travel for business, but I don't really know where I stand. I love my wife dearly, and we have a happy marriage. We both travel a lot for work. As soon as I arrive at a new destination, I find myself sitting in strip bars, going to porn theaters, and cruising through red light districts. I don't know why I do it, and often I don't even want to be there, but something keeps pulling me to these places. I've never cheated on my wife, but I'm afraid that I'm going to make a terrible mistake. Once I found myself in a (legal) brothel being solicited by women who I'm sure were wondering why I was there if I didn't want sex. I left, felt nauseated for the rest of the trip, and could barely look my wife in the eye when I got home. Would it be OK to go to only strip clubs, but not other sexual establishments? Or do I need to cut it off entirely, something that I'm not sure is possible? I've debated finding new work, but that would only solve half of the problem as my wife travels as much as I do, and similar problems appear when I'm home alone.
—Feeling Bad

Prudence writes:

I'm sure there are many diagnoses that can be slapped on your illicit conduct, but how about if you start practicing being as responsible about your sexual behavior as you are about your work behavior. Toward that end, stop with the passive voice. You don't "find" yourself at brothels and strip clubs. You get to town, look up their addresses, then get a ride there.  

To which I say: Stop throwing around terms like "passive voice," when clearly you have no clue what they mean. If you consider yourself an authority on interpersonal behavior, stick to that domain in your advice column. 

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