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I saw the following lead copy of today’s New York Times (May 24) article titled, “Union Effort Turns Its Focus to Target “

“The retailer's employees are unhappy with about low wages and short workweeks.”

I have a simple question. Do we need “about” after "with"? Isn't this redundant?

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3 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

It looks like a simple mistake. Writer originally wrote with, and changed it to about, but forgot to delete the unwanted word.

Disregarding whether that conjecture is actually what happened, there's no question but that using both words is incorrect. As music2myear says, there are semantic/grammatic reasons for preferring about; it may be these are what caused the writer to change his wording. However, it's worth pointing out that over the last 100 years there has been a significant shift in favour of with...

my ngram

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I believe the proper word would be "about", in the sense of the writer meaning "...are unhappy concerning low wages...". "with" is a preposition indicating proximity, which, while it is commonly (ab)used colloquially like this, is not the intended meaning.

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Check out this NGram, showing that things have changed a lot in recent decades. You can't argue the rights and wrongs against that many writers. ngrams.googlelabs.com/… –  FumbleFingers May 24 '11 at 22:27
    
@FumbleFingers: I use it myself and recognize it's legitimacy in our evolving language. But if you are looking for the correct usage, let us agree on the original meaning as the goal and accept the newer usages as less than the goal. –  music2myear May 25 '11 at 14:00
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I take your point and will edit my answer accordingly. In this particular case the writer presumably agreed with you, if my conjecture about the 'undeleted' first choice is correct. Not that I think either word is really 'wrong' today, but both together definitely is. –  FumbleFingers May 25 '11 at 15:04
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I feel that about is to imply around the low, not exactly low.

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