John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and random topics. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. The original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/, at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/, and now at https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/columnists/mcintyre/
Friday, July 3, 2009
Murder must wait
Cruising through yesterday’s front-porch reading, Susan Hill’s The Pure in Heart, I stopped short at a reference to a doctor who was to fill in for another doctor about to give birth as a “temporary locum.”
British writers and readers are more enamored of Latinisms than American, and locum tenens, familiarly shortened to locum, is one that crops up regularly. A locum tenens — locum, place; tenens, holding — is most commonly a priest or physician who is holding another’s place, filling in, substituting. So being a locum is inherently a short-term arrangement; “temporary locum” is redundant.
And now, back to our story.