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, March 12, 2010

It just don't add up

Before you go all peevy on me about the headline, you should be reminded that it is a direct quotation from a Warner Bros. cartoon of my youth. I will offer a public salute to the first reader who accurately identifies the source.* What it does indicate is that we live in a world in which many things simply make no sense.

Item: Mattel is producing a series of Barbie-style dolls based on characters from Mad Men. But the dolls will not have drinks and cigarettes as accessories. What next, a Glenn Beck doll that doesn’t cry?

Item: A lawsuit has been filed claiming that the E-Trade commercial showing a “milkaholic” baby named Lindsay appropriates Lindsay Lohan’s name and image without her consent. Oddly, milk is an addiction with which Ms. Lohan has not previously been associated.

As my first news editor, the late Bob Johnson, used to say, “You can sue the Bishop of Boston for bastardy. But can you get a judgment?”

Item: The Itawamba County School Board in Mississippi canceled a high school prom to which a lesbian student wanted to bring a date, saying that it did so “taking into consideration the education, safety and well-being of our students.”

Now I see that I must have been psychologically scarred by the sight of girls dancing with each other at dances when I was in high school. (Not because they were lesbian, mind you, but because the boys mistook awkwardness for masculinity and gracefulness for effeminacy.)

Item: There appear to be a great number of people interested in Tiger Woods’s sex life. There appear also to be a great number of people interested in golf. Neither interest is fathomable.

Item: Warner Bros. has begun development of a Gilligan’s Island movie. Further comment should be superfluous, though you may still have time to light out for the territory.



*Hint: Did you remember the gravy?




11 comments:

  1. I'm not even going to mention the chef in New York who manufactured cheese from his wife's breast milk.

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  2. As my first news editor, the late Bob Johnson, used to say, “You can sue the Bishop of Boston for bastardy. But can you get a judgment?”
    = = =
    Nowadays, sure, followed by a bankruptcy.

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  3. "Item: Warner Bros. has begun development of a Gilligan’s Island movie. Further comment should be superfluous, though you may still have time to light out for the territory."

    Better yet, time enough to flood U-Toob with cheap knockoff satirical versions of said movie.

    Strike that.

    ... said "entertainment spectacular."

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  4. I think it's from "Cheese Chasers," a Merrie Melodies cartoon, early 1950s, Hubie and Bertie and Claude Cat...

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  5. Ms. Miller is correct. In "Cheese Chasers," Hubie and Bertie, sick from a surfeit of cheese, try to get Claude the cat to kill them. The cat freaks out, and the dog, seeing that the cat won't kill mice and the mice won't eat cheese, resorts to an adding machine, and concludes, "It just don't add up."

    Ben Zimmer, soon to make his debut as the new "On Language" columnist for The New York Times, cited the same cartoon in a private message.

    I apologize to anyone I led astray with my misremembered reference to gravy, which actually comes from a different Hubie and Bertie cartoon, "Chow Hound," in which the dog enslaves the mice to fetch him increasing quantities of meat. They have their revenge at the end when, as those who like me wasted their youth watching cartoons will recall, they do not forget the gravy.

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  6. It had Pete Puma in it, but I can't recall the name....

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  7. The other thing with the "Mad Men” dolls is that the Joan Holloway figurine is more Barbie and less curvy than the actress it's modeled after. Suppose that's trivial, too. Meh.

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  8. Sun headline this morning (Saturday 3/13): "Sex crime changes advance." Why, what was wrong with its old advance?

    I am reminded of a story that my wife, who works in a law library, told me recently. While on the reference desk, she received a call from a fellow who had been fired -- wrongly, he claimed -- for sexual harassment. She helped him find the information he needed, and he was so grateful that he offered to buy her flowers. She declined politely, but he insisted. Several times, in fact...

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  9. Hi, John--

    It's your "misplaced only" pest again. Has anyone pointed out the use of "is" when you meant "it" (I assume) in your first paragraph?

    Or does that make me too picky? : )

    Becki Stevenson

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