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, September 16, 2009

Leafiness

The house across the street sits within a grove of trees. Two of the most prominent, a sweet gum and a tulip poplar, are beginning to change color, the former to scarlet, the latter to gold. Another neighbor has a yard of mature oaks. He harvests a hundred or more bags of leaves every fall, in addition to what the wind generously deposits on our property. But until yesterday I did not think that we were leafy.

Yesterday’s Sun ran an article about a man who was shot as he tried to rob an off-duty police officer in the “leafy Glenham-Belford neighborhood.” Now I know from long experience that the leafy neighborhoods (sometimes tree-shaded) in Baltimore are Guilford, Roland Park, and Homeland.* Leafy is a code word in journalism for well-off and respectable, often paired with suburban. It provides a contrast to the gritty neighborhoods where the shabby people shoot one another to no one’s surprise.**

I’d have to go down to Calvert Street and be shepherded through the tight security to the newsroom to look at the city map of neighborhoods with names that no one who lives in them uses, but I’m fairly sure that Glenham-Belford, wherever it is, is a humble middle-class neighborhood much like mine. And if I’m leafy now, does that mean that the city is going to raise my property tax assessment?

Perhaps applying leafy to Glenham-Belford was simply a mistake, a writing or editing error. After all, yesterday was also the day that The Sun published this headline: Vote comes / on heals / of ACORN / scandals.

One additional item: In the current Best of Baltimore issue, the City Paper has named me “Best Laid Off Sun Staffer.” Too kind.

(It would be ungenerous to point out the omitted hyphen in the compound adjective.)



*For non-Baltimoreans readers, those are the neighborhoods where the quality live.

**I’m not quite sure where the grit in those neighborhoods comes from, now that there is no longer any industry in Baltimore.