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 email@example.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, January 6, 2010
Crash blossoms, y'all, and Jan Freeman
Crash blossoms blossom
Last summer the Testy Copy Editors weighed in on a common problem in headline writing: the headline that appears to proceed in one direction but turns out to have a completely different meaning, or, because of ambiguity in the words, a completely opaque meaning. The example, “Violinist linked to JAL crash blossoms,” led commenters to embrace “crash blossom” as the generic term for such botched headlines.
The term was quickly taken up on Language Log and other sites, and “crash blossom” has become a candidate for the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year. The society, which opens its annual meeting in Baltimore tomorrow, will vote on the Word of the Year late Friday afternoon.
Whether or not it wins, copy editors have added a fresh and needed term to the technical vocabulary of journalism. See the original Testy Copy Editors post and the subsequent examples here.
What do y’all think?
You might want to look in on the debate at Language Log over whether y’all can ever be or has even been used legitimately as a singular. Many Southerners claim never to have heard such a usage from a native Southern speaker. Suspecting Yankee ignorance or even dark plots, they bristle as Georgians would at the mention of General Sherman.
For my part, I have known native Southerners, and I have been addressed, solitarily, by them as “y’all.” However, should I be called up before HUAC (the House Committee on Un-American Conversation), I will refuse to name names.
Jan Freeman’s back
The Boston Globe’s estimable language columnist, having recovered from the labor of producing her book on Ambrose Bierce’s idiosyncratic diktats on language (the book having been noted in these precincts), has launched a fresh blog, Throw Grammar from the Train.
You will want to bookmark it.
Sometime within the past few weeks, Baltimoresun.com made a software adjustment that renders the 700-plus posts on the previous version of You Don’t Say inaccessible. If you click on the old address, you will be transferred to the current one.
I regret that, because the old site continued for most of 2009 to have regular traffic, drawing readers who found the old posts of continuing value. As time permits, I may revisit those previous topics — all the original texts are in my possession — to update and repurpose the information. If there are any such topics that you would like for me to address, please send me a note.
And finally, because I know you are good people, I commend to you again a simple action that will serve your purposes and do good at no cost to you.
Go to GoodSearch.com, and choose as your designated cause the American Copy Editors Society Education Fund. Then, whenever you would use Yahoo’s search engine, use the GoodSearch version of it; each time you do so, a small amount, about a penny, will be designated for the education fund. That brought in more than $70 in 2009, and we should be able to do much better this year.