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/.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Available for hire

Experienced editor, with three decades of experience and temporarily at liberty, offers to provide editorial and other services:

Will edit specimens of your newspaper, magazine, newsletter, Web site, or blog, correcting errors of fact, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and English usage; will also identify infelicities of expression and flaws in structure.

Will proofread your thesis, article, or presentation and suggest corrections and improvements.

Will draft for you news releases, handbills, and similar public announcements.

Will draft for you letters of complaint to persons, companies, or agencies that have done you an injury.* (Not responsible for results.)

Will deliver lectures or conduct workshops on writing and editing. (List of workshops available on request.)

Will speak to your class, club, or other group on writing, editing, and journalism.

Will coach you in the delivery of a speech or paper, the telling of a joke, and acceptable pronunciation.

Will correct the scansion of your song lyrics or other verses.

Will offer personal instruction in tying the bow tie or making the martini.

Fees are negotiable. References on request.


Contact information:

John E. McIntyre
5516 Plymouth Road
Baltimore, MD 21214
410-963-2931
jemcintyre@gmail.com




*Please, no matters regarding inheritances, uncollected winnings from foreign lotteries, or romantic entanglements.

We like it vulgar

Returning from a festival of Janeites in Britain, my friend the redoubtable Marie Sprayberry (Best Person when I married Kathleen in 1982) made a present to me of a reprint of The Vulgar Tongue, a dictionary of slang published by Francis Grose in 1785. It is a gem.

Rummaging about in it, I was able to point my son, J.P., the cook, to the entry on cupboard love: “Pretended love to the cook, or any other person, for the sake of a meal.” Now he is alerted to the hazard.

I also came across fice: “A small windy escape backwards [a playful euphemism for fart], more obvious to the nose than ears; frequently by old ladies charged on their lap-dogs.” Blaming the dog thus has a venerable pedigree.

Fice is also a slang word I recall from my childhood in Kentucky, for a small, inconsequential or irritating mongrel dog. The Oxford English Dictionary says that the word derives from fist (pronounced with a long i), for breaking wind. (Cf. feisty.)

The book also describes a useful technique for derailing bores, kittle pitchering: “A jocular method of hobbling or bothering a troublesome teller of long stories; this is done by contradicting some very immaterial circumstance at the beginning of the narration, the objections to which being settled, others are immediately started to some new particular of like consequence; thus impeding, or rather not suffering him to enter into, the main story. Kittle pitchering is often practised in confederacy, one relieving the other, by which the design is rendered less obvious.”

I will now be alert to this strategy.

And to this one: scraping. “A mode of expressing dislike to a person, or sermon, practised at Oxford by the students, in scraping their feet against the ground during the preachment. ...”

And to that one.