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, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, and now at

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Weekend miscellany

Item: Tomorrow is the two-hundredth anniversary of the death of Joseph Haydn, and as I crouch over the computer in the basement, I’m listening to the Opus 77 string quartets. Listen to the sublime second movement of Opus 72, No. 2 in F major, this weekend if you have a chance; if you are not moved to admiration, you have a heart of stone.

Item: Earlier this week I attended my first tweet-up, in which people linked to The Baltimore Sun by Twitter gathered at The Windup Space, a gallery/bar in the Station North Arts district (with a vacant building on one side and a demolished one on the other, suggesting that Station North remains a work in progress).

I met @MinistryOfBacon and @SpamSpam, among others. The former was impressed by my evaluation of the superiority of bacon over sausage: with bacon, you know what you’re eating. There was also a subsequent mention on Facebook that Owl Meat,* the indefatigable commenter on Elizabeth Large’s Dining@Large blog, had encountered me there. I myself was unaware of the honor, not recognizing any of his many personae. Or perhaps he was just having me on at Facebook. Owl Meat, Internet Man of Mystery.**

Item: Snark cropped up this week on Ms. Large’s blog when regular contributor John Lindner unveiled his lack of enthusiasm for the cuisine — if that’s the word we want — at Looney’s bar. Someone appropriated Michael Gray’s name to post a patently false comment. When Mr. Gray objected, someone signing as “Ellen” responded:

For someone who prides himself on his writing style and likes to lob scuds at other's writing ("prattle"), your last post was an English teacher's nightmare.

"Just because of a few obnoxious, childish buffoons" shouldn't be it's own sentence.

Everyone is a legend in their own mind.

Anyone who has leapt with delight on my typos and solecisms will recognize the hazard people run when they set themselves up to comment on other people’s grammar and usage. Others’ writing and its own sentence would surely have been preferable, and while I have loosened up considerably on everyone ... their constructions, I’m not sure that “Ellen” and those English teachers twitching in their sleep would grant the same latitude.

I am sure, however, that legend in his own mind is a damnable cliche.

The snarker snarked is a recurring theme on the Internet.

Item: Among the events of the week to come is something less than a tweet-up but nonetheless promising: the 2009 Abell Symposium, "The End of Local News? If Communities Lose Newspapers, Who Will Fill the Void?," sponsored by the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. This will take place on Tuesday, June 2, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Westminster Hall (519 West Fayette Street, Baltimore) on the University of Maryland Baltimore campus. Among the luminaries on the panel will be Monty Cook, editor of The Sun, and Tim Franklin, his immediate predecessor. I plan to show up, and I hope that you will, too.

*Owl Meat Gravy in full reference, though the cognomen varies depending on the subject he addresses.

**Yes, another pop culture allusion.


  1. Perhaps "Ellen" isn't familiar with Muphry's Law (

  2. Item 1: True, so very true. So, riddle me this: Why isn't the Music Choice channel playing Hayden today?

    Item 2: Do English teachers read contemporay novels? Ever? ~sigh~

    Item 3: Thanks for the heads up!

    Now...if anyone is terribly bored, or struggling with OCD, he/she/it may procede to pull out his/her/its red/blue pencil and correct away on my comment.

    You give us such fun, John!

  3. A friend just facebooked me with the following quote from his local paper:
    "The U.S. Department of Labor reported in 1996 that one in eight women clergy was female."
    He asked me to explain that. Among other comments I suggested that trend to discharge copy editors was rising at an alarming rate. Then I suggested he read your blog.

  4. Patricia the TerseJune 1, 2009 at 1:42 AM

    Try also the Piano Trios, especially the recordings with fortepianist Robert Levin: one of the slow movements sounds like Haydn cribbing from Bach and the whole rearranged by Shearing.Try that for a confusion of cultures.