Proper English

Two of my statehouse colleagues — Dan Gearino of the Lee Enterprises newspapers & Rod Boshart of the Cedar Rapids Gazette — have sent me email alerts.  My name has been menioned in debate on the floor of the Iowa Senate.

Senator Jeff Angelo, a Republican from Creston who once worked in the radio industry and talked for a living, offered a "tongue-in-cheek" amendment a few moments ago, according to newsman Boshart. Newsman Gearino passes along the text of the amendment for your reading pleasure:

1  1    Amend House File 2700, as amended, passed, and
     1  2 reprinted by the House, as follows:
     1  3 #1.  Page 17, by inserting after line 30 the
     1  4 following:
     1  5    <Sec.    .  Section 2.45, Code 2007, is amended by
     1  6 adding the following new subsection:
     1  7    NEW SUBSECTION.  6.  The legislative common sense
     1  8 committee of the legislative council composed of
     1  9 members designated by the legislative council to serve
     1 10 as a joint committee of the general assembly.  In
     1 11 addition to the duties assigned by the legislative
     1 12 council, the committee shall review bills, amendments,
     1 13 and other legislative proposals in order to recommend
     1 14 amendments or otherwise revise the items reviewed by
     1 15 applying sound and prudent judgment based on a simple
     1 16 perception of the situation or facts.  The committee
     1 17 may submit bills or amendments for consideration by
     1 18 one or both chambers of the general assembly at any
     1 19 time a chamber is in session, notwithstanding any
     1 20 provision to the contrary.>
     1 21 #2.  By renumbering as necessary.
     1 22
     1 23
     1 24
     1 25 JEFF ANGELO
     1 26 HF 2700.326 82
     1 27 jp/mg/11785 

Perhaps Senator Angelo will post a comment here to explain to readers of The Blog. (At the bottom of this post is an explanation that my beef is with the non-word "incent" not "incentivize.")

UPDATE!  Newsman Gearino comes through at 11:05 p.m. and emailed the following "partial transcript" of Angelo’s comments:

"Kay Henderson a few years ago said to me, dared to say to me, that
incentivize is not a word. I have since heard it used a couple of
times again on this floor, so I’m taking credit for creating the word
incentivize and putting it into the English language. Under this
particular committee, they would submit such words and have them
approved. So if Sen. Zaun wants to continue to insist to make the word
"all" a plural, as in "alls," if this committee approves it, it
becomes a part of the English language. I myself would commit another
word to this particular committee for approval and use in the English
language. I call the word tramplation – that is the act of being
trampled. I would use it in a sentence: ‘The farmer did fail to
maintain his fence, his cows got out, and the neighbors feared

At 11:11 p.m., Senate President Jack Kibbie sought to curtail the conversations occuring on the Senate floor, urging folks to "hold the nose" but he quickly corrected himself and urged lawmakers to "hold the noise" down to a more reasonable level so people listening to the debate, or perhaps participating in it, might be able to hear the debate.

Explanation:  the first time I heard someone use the word "incent" I was standing in a Senate committee room at the statehouse.  It was 1999.  Governor Vilsack had nominated Jesse Rasmussen (who happens to be former Nebraska Senator/Governor Bob Kerrey’s sister) to be the director of the Iowa Department of Human Services.  She led a reorganization effort that consolidated Nebraska’s welfare agencies and as she testified before senators on that topic and others, she said one of the keys to success was an effort to "incent" people.  I cringed, as one provides incentives, but I had never heard the word incent before.  The word spread like wildfire through the capitol.  Representatives Christopher Rants and Dave Heaton, a lawmaker who headed the budget subcommittee that wrote the DHS budget, began using it.  Vilsack began using it.  It was awful.  It still is. 

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. As you know, Kay, legislators each year seemed to become enamored of a particular phrase and policymakers hear it again and again during a particular session.
    This year, multiple amendments were promoted by legislators as featuring “common sense” ideas. I decided to literally amend a bill with a “common sense” amendment.
    As you also know, I am retiring this year and decided to use my comments to also celebrate your efforts to hold us accountable when we butcher the English language in our comments.
    I had hoped the “common sense” committee could also review words that were created by legislators in debate and rule on whether those words could be entered into the English language.
    Kay, you are fantastic reporter and it’s been a joy to work with you.
    P.S. I withdrew the amendment. I told the folks that the House would never tolerate an infusion of common sense.