From today’s NYT:
Headlights in the distance from an approaching car and behind it another, and another, and another. A caravan of four luxury sedans fast approaching on a road rarely traveled at night.
Was it a large family? Bandits? Drug traffickers? Suddenly the officers faced a choice: Do we stop them and risk a shootout, or live with the mystery?
“They would have been able to shoot quicker,” Officer Lorenzo López said later, after letting the caravan pass. “By the time we would have realized it, we would have already been flying to heaven as little angels.”
It seems likely from the context that Officer López was speaking in Spanish, which was translated into English by either the reporter or the Times. And in doing so, the Times used one of my most unfavorite grammatical constructions: the modal auxiliary (“by the time we would have realized“) rather than the past perfect subjunctive (“by the time we had realized”) as the antecedent of a counterfactual conditional. By educated speakers of English this construction is either unacceptable or strongly idiomatically disfavored (warning: more detail at that link than you probably wanted), depending on your point of view, and in any case I detest it and I find it jarring to see it in the Times. In colloquial speech, yeah; in the mouths of Snooki and the Situation, sure; maybe even in informal blogging, sure. But to see it in print is a horror.
In ten or twenty years, the yobs will have won, and by then I’ll be a “get off my lawn!” old man anyway, but for now, we absolutely must fight the spread of this indignity. Who’s with me??