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, January 1, 2010

Quorum call

A gentleman from Seattle named Charles Kraus published a light-hearted set of New Year’s resolutions in this morning’s Baltimore Sun. Among them was this one:

This year, I resolve to purchase The New York Times at the local newsstand at least once a week to show solidarity with those of us who believe Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, Nicholas Kristof, Maureen Dowd, Gail Collins, Stanley Fish, David Brooks, Charles Blow, Thomas Friedman and Bob Herbert form a minion, and should never be forced to work for Arianna Huffington.

Spotted it already, didn’t you?

A minion is an underling, particularly a servile one — a flunky, a stooge, a lackey, a tool, a cat’s paw. A minyan is the quorum required for public worship in a synagogue — ten Jewish men over the age of thirteen, or, in some congregations, ten men and women.

Reaching for the mistaken homophone (or homograph) is one of the commonest errors in writing, and this little gem leads us to expect a fresh new year of opportunities to carp, cavil, and quibble. Life is good.