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/.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Things not to give a fig for

Not to care a fig, according to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, refers to the fruit as “something of little or no value.” Or perhaps it suggests the Spanish fico, which was the popular term in Shakespeare’s time “for an obscene gesture of contempt made by thrusting the thumb (representing the male sex organ) between the first and second fingers (representing the female).” Choose the sense you prefer.

Item: Archie is marrying Veronica

I’m sorry, but does anyone born since the Truman administration care? And aren’t those two collecting Social Security by now and living in a facility that prepares food that does not require chewing?

Item: The Scripps National Spelling Bee

Somehow it does not surprise that our national competition celebrating literacy is devoted to rote memorization rather than reading or thinking.

Item: Jon and Kate’s marriage is in trouble

A couple with eight children who have allowed themselves to be presented to the public in a reality TV show are starting to show some strain. Who’d’a thunk?

Item: Chris Brown is in trouble again

Don’t know his music, don’t care to know it. Didn’t watch his YouTube defense of the accusation the he beat up his girlfriend. Not edified by his latest contretemps. The world of celebrity news coverage appears to consist largely of annoying people who just won’t go away.

Item: Fox News

Comment would be superfluous.


Readers: For your part: Suggestions would be welcome on (a) expressions comparable to not give a fig for or (b) additional items not to give a fig for.