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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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, June 10, 2009
That Jay Hancock can write up a storm
Today’s column on why Maryland should not be thought of as a Southern state any longer, linked to legislative leaders’ desire to affiliate with the Eastern rather than the Southern division of a trade group, shows some of his typical touches.
His opening sentence plays with the South’s historic flirtations with secession: Isn't it time Maryland seceded from the South?
He emphasizes his basic contrast by seizing on a telling statistic:
In a South characterized by social conservatism, only 41 percent of Marylanders reported attending weekly church or temple services in a recent Gallup Poll. That was slightly below the national average and far under the upper-50s percentages for the Deep South.
He never passes up a chance to take a shot at unsound policy and witless behavior:
Maryland is the home of smart growth and Columbia, one of the first planned communities. Should Columbia share a regional designation with Houston, home of stupid growth?
Beyond statistics and public policy, there are social conventions and mores to take note of:
Virginia is still reliably Southern, despite analysts who say it's being transformed by yuppies and carpetbaggers in Arlington and McLean. The analysts were saying the same thing two decades ago.
Order an iced tea in Tysons Corner (no smart growth there!) and you'll get it sweetened whether or not you ask for it.
And yet he acknowledges that the separation from the South is far from absolute — he observes that Maryland is still, if vestigially, a tobacco-growing state.
Though I particularly enjoyed today’s effort, his work is regularly gratifying.
When the all-taxes-are-evil crowd started moaning that a drop in the number of millionaires in Maryland must certainly be a result of a recent income tax surcharge, Mr. Hancock pointed out that “[t]hey're bugging out because of Maryland's estate tax, which applies to a bigger portion of a dead person's hoard than the federal estate tax or those in other states.”
It was a delight to watch him play with the political labels — conservative, liberal, socialist, pinko, right-winger — in a column, “Let’s cut spending and raise taxes,” that put forward intelligible and sensible points of view that spread across the entire spectrum.
And if you, like I, have a recent college graduate in the family, share his column, “Advice to grads: Strap yourselves in for the long ride ahead.” It will be more valuable than any number of banal graduation addresses by notables the graduates will cease to remember in a fortnight.