That famous anonymous op-ed piece that ran last September? The one reportedly penned by someone inside the Trump Administration, and published by the New York Times?
The second-to-last sentence in the editorial reads like this:
“There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first.”
Forgive me; I’m not exactly clear. “Of” is one of the most inexact, most slippery, most dangerous words in the English language.
This writer surely couldn’t really be describing Trumpworld as an “administration of people choosing to put country first.”
But the alternative would be somewhat odd, too — describing a “resistance of people.” Like the administration is resisting the people who choose to put country first. This doesn’t seem to line up with the thesis of the op-ed piece either.
Maybe the writer means to say: “There is a quiet resistance, within the administration, made up of people choosing to put country first.”
Or: “There is, within the administration, a quiet resistance led by [or conducted by] people choosing to put country first.”
But we can’t be sure — or at best, we may find ourselves having to stop and think about it — because of is such a lame word.
Whenever you write the word of, stop yourself, go back, squint at it, and see if you can’t find a more fully functional, more reliably meaningful word or phrase with which to replace it.
The guy who invented the word of was having a difficult day; he was only halfway through his shift when he got a text from his teenage daughter that she forgot to put her Honors English homework in her backpack, and she was going to flunk if he didn’t bring it to the school right away, and he was like, Okay, whatever, and he just left his vague, only-partially-thought-through invention on the workbench, and somebody came along and packaged it up and shipped it, and now we’re stuck with an inferior product.