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/.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Are you a closet Socialist?

Amid all the cries of “Socialism!” as the Congress has grappled with the problems of reshaping the nation’s health care system, I thought that it would be helpful to get a clearer idea of what the nation is up against. This would be particularly useful in identifying what used to be called “creeping socialism,” the insidious practices catching the citizenry unaware.

Accordingly, I took a look at the Socialist Party platform for 1912, the year Woodrow Wilson, nominated in sweaty Baltimore, defeated William Howard Taft. Amid a lot of boilerplate about workers and collective ownership, there were these platform planks:

[S]ecuring for every worker a rest period of not less than a day and a half in each week.

[F]orbidding the employment of children under sixteen years of age.

[A]bolishing official charity and substituting a non-contributary system of old age pensions, a general system of insurance by the State of all its members against unemployment and invalidism and a system of compulsory insurance by employers of their workers, without cost to the latter, against industrial diseases, accidents and death.

The adoption of a graduated income tax and the extension of inheritance taxes, graduated in proportion to the value of the estate and to nearness of kin-the proceeds of these taxes to be employed in the socialization of industry.

Unrestricted and equal suffrage for men and women.

The adoption of the initiative, referendum and recall and of proportional representation, nationally as well as locally.

The granting of the right of suffrage in the District of Columbia with representation in Congress and a democratic form of municipal government for purely local affairs.

The enactment of further measures for general education and particularly for vocational education in useful pursuits. The Bureau of Education to be made a department.


Citizens, be alert!

Today's word: egregious

Egregious (adj.) From the Latin egregius (surpassing, illustrious). Formerly excellent, outstanding, or distinguished. Now used almost exclusively to mean excessive, flagrant, or repellent.

It is always helpful to illustrate the use of a word. Yesterday, several sources (my spies are everywhere) brought to my attention the most egregious allusion to the September 11 attacks that I have ever seen in print.

An article by Karl Raymond, the sports editor of the Sun Prairie Star of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, was published with these opening paragraphs:

The nightmare of 9/11 will live forever in our minds and memories.

Fast forward eight years later and last Friday, Sept. 11 is a night the Sun Prairie High School football team, coaching staff and Cardinal fans hope can soon be forgotten. Dealt a 22-0 halftime deficit by Madison Memorial in a Big Eight Conference football game at Ashley Field, the Cardinals made an inspiring comeback in the second half but never fully recovered, falling to the Spartans, 22-14.


Please note the elements: the platitudinous opening sentence, the fast forward to cliche, the two clotted sentences that delay to the very end the magnitude (22-14) of this colossal defeat, and the utter, grotesque disproportion of the two events.

Bonus word of the day:

Execrable (adj.) From the French exécrable, ultimately from the Latin verb execrari (to curse). Of wretched quality, bad beyond description,

That someone would attempt such a comparison is monstrous enough, but presumably someone else displayed the execrable judgment to allow it to be published.