John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to jemcintyre@gmail.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Do you know where Puerto Rico is?

Blame the McKinley administration.

Coming to imperialism just as it was passing its high-water mark, the United States, which had previously grabbed the Hawaiian Islands, picked a fight over Cuba with the ever-decaying Spanish Empire. Cuba got independence, and the United States got Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico.

That was during a few months in 1898. We granted independence to the Philippines after the Second World War, but we held on to Guam and Puerto Rico.

Since 1917, by statute, people born in Puerto Rico are citizens of the United States. That is why an anonymous comment earlier today is — in part — spot on:

Another tidbit: Where's the Baltimore Sun copy desk when you need it?

From Alternet this morning:

A google search for "Sotomayor" and "immigrant parents" brings up 10 pages of results (including over 2,000 news pieces like this one, from the Baltimore Sun, which describes Obama's pick to replace retiring Supreme Court justice David Souter as having been "raised in a Bronx, N.Y., housing project by her Puerto Rican immigrant parents...")

Fun fact: Puerto Rico is part of the United States!


Two things:

(1) The error of calling people immigrants if they have come to the mainland from Puerto Rico is stubbornly persistent and likely represents the limited education and cultural understanding of some journalists.

(2) I think that the copy desk of The Baltimore Sun may in fact have been on duty last night, because the text I read in this morning’s print edition, in the article by Peter Wallsten and Richard Simon of the Tribune Washington Bureau, refers to Sotomayor’s “personal background — raised in a Bronx, N.Y., housing project by Puerto Rican parents.”

5 comments:

  1. A simpler fix would be to change immigrant to migrant, though on second thought that might suggest that her parents were migratory workers.

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  2. Oops. I quoted Alternet without checking actual copy of Sun. Bad copy editor.

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  3. It may indeed have been "Puerto Rican immigrant parents" on baltimoresun.com though, because those editors are different and have fewer layers than the copy desk that edits the print edition.

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  4. It's probably an AP article, anyway, because I think I read that in my local paper and/or saw/heard it on CNN.

    I'm glad I wasn't wrong in the fact that it bothered me.

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  5. You might want to alert Bernstein, Sondheim and Arthur Laurents. "I like to be in America!"

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