Sunday, December 26, 2010

Why is everything always "under investigation"?

The holiday season seemed like a good time to get a trivial language matter that has bugged me for awhile off my chest.
Have you noticed how when the police (or any group) investigate a possible crime or issue, the media invariably report that the matter is "under investigation"? Why do they never say that something is being investigated?
Using a similar grammatical construct, some examples of why "under investigation" and similar are a poor use of language:
  • "Whether Canadians prefer hockey to football on Monday was under discussion at the conference." vs "Whether Canadians prefer hockey to football was discussed at the conference."
  • "The hospital's new computer system is under implementation in January." vs "The hospital's new computer system is being implemented in January."
  • "Our massive transfusion policy is under review." vs "Our massive transfusion policy is being reviewed." vs "We are reviewing our massive transfusion policy."
  • "Our dinner was under consumption when the cops arrived. " vs "Our dinner was being eaten when the cops arrived." vs "We were eating dinner when the cops arrived."
  • "My eyes were under examination by the optometrist." vs "My eyes were being examined by the optometrist." vs "The optometrist examined my eyes."
Journalism schools should promote the benefits of forceful language.

Or maybe I should write, "Journalism schools should put the benefits of forceful language under promotion."

It's up to you, the readers, to put the issue under decision... oops...make that "to decide".


  1. Anonymous10:55 AM

    I am under the impression that this manner of speaking is a means of distancing self from responsibility.

  2. Thanks for the "under the impression" chuckle with both under and a noun ending in ion in your reply.

    Agree totally about the distancing but for reporters, who knows. Perhaps they prefer to say "under investigation" because it conveys something more official than "being investigated". Or maybe they are unschooled in the benefits of using verbs and verb forms over abstract, typically "tion" nouns.


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