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, March 30, 2010

Try to keep up


I’ve been meaning to write up some appreciations of Jack Lynch’s The Lexicographer’s Dilemma and some books on language sent over by Oxford University Press, but other matters have pushed themselves to the fore. Be patient. The posts will be coming, as will one about the important matter I hinted at previously.

For now, some random amusements:

Item: Arrant Pedantry suggests that there could and should be peace in the valley between prescriptivits and descriptivists (the while linking my name, though I am not worthy, with Bill Walsh’s and Jan Freeman’s). You Don’t Say heartily endorses his reasoned and irenic tone.

Item: One of Andy Bechtel’s students at Chapel Hill has written a guest post at The Editor’s Desk about the importance of editing beyond journalism:

When I received my employee handbook at orientation, I was appalled to see a typo, spelling error and incorrect word choice on every single page. The PowerPoint presentation wasn’t any better. And when my boss got up to speak, I cringed when I heard the word “interpretated” fall out of his mouth.
Individuals and businesses seem to be under the mistaken impression that editing is only for news media. But it’s not just about using the language correctly. It’s about maintaining an image.

Worth a longer look.

Item: As a longtime reader of British detective fiction, I would be happy to see some Britishisms creep into common use here, in exchange for the Americanisms we have exported.

There has been some whingeing (whining, peevish complaint) about gone missing (a perfectly fine neutral term that can accommodate both abductions and simple wandering off), though even a git (a fool, a twit, a useless person – think of the contempt you can pack into that short vowel and terminal consonant) can suss out (figure out, investigate to discover) what it means in context.

Any other admirers of P.D. James, Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, Martha Grimes, Ian Rankin (Scotland for aye!), and their like out there who would care to suggest additional terms?  





21 comments:

  1. I've never understood just what is conveyed by "whingeing" that isn't conveyed by "whining." Is there any real need to type those two extra letters?

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  2. The sound, Ms. Felaco, the sound! Rhymes with hinge, adding a tonal variation not conveyed by whiiiiiiiine.

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  3. I picked up the habit of reading CTV's web site (ctv.ca) when we were planning a trip to Toronto several years ago. Now I read it to get an outside-the-U.S. perspective on the news. Sometimes I have to puzzle out terms. I figured out that "turfed" means fired. It brings to mind the image of someone being tossed out onto the lawn. Don't know if this usage is British or exclusively Canadian.

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  4. don't care for PD James: too much deus ex machina

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  5. From my South Africa days when whingeing was mainly a term used in cricket reports... "at the weekend..." and "run up" as in "in the run up to the election..."
    I doubt we would go with "robot," the South African term for traffic light. But I do like the Afrikaner word "lekker" used as a comment in the place of "nice" or "good."

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  6. "At the end of the day" has become common here. But I'd love to see "skiving off" and "twee" show up more.

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  7. knackered
    (i'd type more, but I'm...)

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  8. +1 for whinge. I believe, tho I might be wrong, that the Australians are prone to complaining about the home-country brethren as "whingin' pommies."

    I've always, mmm, appreciated the mild coarseness of "wanker." Not for polite company, that.

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  9. Love the word 'git', it's very popular in my family (at least that part of it which hails from London), but I've always taken it to be much harder on the subject than 'fool' or 'useless person'. My OED defines it as 'an unpleasant or contemptible person' which is a more familiar meaning to me.

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  10. "Ta." Disdained by some as baby talk, but, really, babies don't verbally express thanks anyway. It's quick, simple and eminently tweetable. I felt quite chuffed after using it upon purchasing a newspaper at a tube station. I try to avoid slangy shortenings, but "ta" has its place.

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  11. I have an etymology for "git" that is completely made up, but I like it because it helps convey the appropriate level of contemptibility.

    GIT = Gob of spIT

    Works for me.

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  12. The etymology of git is not so far off from that. It is a variant of the noun get, which comes from Old Norse geta, developing into the Old English gietan. Gietan also leads to begietan, "beget." So the sense of git as a worthless person whom one despises carries the overtone of "misbegotten,"

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  13. I prefer the British "sacked" to "fired."

    And I like "getting the sack" even more.

    It seems to reflect the seriousness of it all.

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  14. @Anonymous -- of course, the Brits have their own euphemism in the term "being made redundant."

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  15. "Gobsmacked" occasionally comes in handy. I don't like to see British books Americanized for our market, but I sure find the New Yorker's fussy British style annoying. I could swear that "focussed" pops up in every bloody article.

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  16. Right after reading this blog, and John's comment about the importance of editing beyond journalism, a press release crossed my desk. The town the company is based in was misspelled ("San Louis Obispo" instead of "San Luis Obispo"). Last night I was reading the brochure for the National Cherry Blossom Festival to check this weekend's schedule. It badly needed an edit. Several weeks ago I stopped reading labels at a large art gallery show because they were so full of typos and garbled they weren't worth reading. There's enough work out there to keep every copy editor in America busy--if only companies cared about their image.

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  17. I disagree about 'git'. To call someone a git does not mean they are foolish or useless; it means they are annoying.

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  18. Thank you for the link and the kind words. I'm honored.

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  19. I have a question about "git." Is it pronounced "jit," or as "get" is said in a Midwest accent?

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