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, October 7, 2009

You may fire when ready

From an advertisement for an opening for an editor at a Christian publishing concern:

Knowledge of cannon law, Church history, & world history req'd.

10 comments:

  1. Well, they really do need that editor.

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  2. There's a novel called 1635: The Cannon Law, but that's a deliberate pun; it is about a (fictional) attempt to conquer Rome in order to seize the Papacy for a Spanish-backed candidate (or is he?). The plot involves the apparent supersession of canon law by "cannon law", which is that he who has the cannons, wins.

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  3. Does anyone who's not a pirate these days know what cannon law would be? If so, I salute him.

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  4. I know what it is but I'm not familiar with its workings.

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  5. Speaking of the need for editors, this morning's baltimoresun.com headline on the death of football player who had tried out with the Ravens game me pause: "Ravens hopeful Fein dies."

    Seems mean. Wasn't cutting him from the squad punishment enough?

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  6. Patricia the TerseOctober 7, 2009 at 5:49 PM

    Also, the plural of "canon" is canons. The plural of cannon is cannon.

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  7. I'm reminded of a line from the 1955 movie "The Private War of Major Benson" (released in the year of my birth, this film is indeed an antiquity). The Major Benson of the title, played by Charlton Heston, has been assigned to the ROTC program at a Catholic boys' military school. Upon Major Benson's arrival, the headmistress nun informs him that the school's patron saint (I forget who this was) was "canonized in [whatever the date was]." Benson responds, "Oh, I'm sorry."

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  8. Oddly enough--or perhaps not really all that odd--is that fact that they both come from the same root: a long, straight reed, which shows up in the shape of the cannon and the "yardstick" of the canon.

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  9. Patricia the TerseOctober 10, 2009 at 5:43 PM

    I believe the actual quotation is" You may fire when you are ready, Gridley" (Or perhaps it was Ridley. Whoever he was, he was ready and he fired.)

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  10. Patricia: The plural of cannon is cannons, and has been since the noun was introduced into English in the early 16th century. Cannon is also used as a collective noun meaning 'ordnance, artillery in general'.

    I leave it to others to explain the difference between cannons, howitzers, and mortars.

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