"At that time," wrote the Insider on hurling (in the "Hurling with Wolves," March 8 issue), "the Wolves were the only team comprised of born-and-bred Americans in the league." Here's an opportunity for the Grammarnator to be a stickler.
Language purists, you see, would insist that comprise is the wrong word here. As the once-revered Strunk & White advised in The Elements of Style back in 1979: "A zoo comprises mammals, reptiles, and birds (because it embraces, or includes, them). But animals do not comprise a zoo - they constitute a zoo."
The use of comprise in the phrase "comprised of" dates from the 18th century. The far older use, in which the best synonym for comprise is include, goes back to the 15th century, and still has its champions today. A fairly recent best seller, Patricia T O'Connor's Woe Is I from 1996, notes that the word "means include or contain. Vladimir's butterfly collection comprises several rare specimens. Avoid "comprised of." You wouldn't say 'included of,' would you?"
As I said, however, I would be a stickler (sounds like a term in hurling) or purist to draw a line in the sand on this one and condemn anyone who wrote "comprised of" instead of "composed of," the preferred alternative.
There are more important fights to fight, my favorite nowadays being the spreading use of "there's," as I have mentioned before. Just last week, Jeb Bradley said on New Hampshire Public Radio (oh, a conservative Republican on public radio!) that "there's a lot of things that have contributed to the benefits problem. Come on, Senator! That's "There are a lot of things. . ."