John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott called "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and random topics. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to email@example.com, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. His original "You Don't Say" blog at The Baltimore Sun ran from 2005 to 2021, and posts on it can sometimes be found at baltimoresun.com through Google searches.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Don't make me no nevermind
I can’t hardly think why so many people get all bent out of shape over minor variations in language. Myself, I could care less how people talk or what they write in text messages and e-mails or anything else casual they’re writing at. Though I might could get upset in some circumstances. To blatantly violate all kinds of actual rules and all those shibboleths some people think of as rules — none of the latter are worth a bucket of warm spit — might come from ignorance, which could be instructed, or defiance, which can be fun when it sets the peevers’ teeth on edge. And really, who gets hurt? Woman asked me the other day — I was buying a hat to replace the fedora that got stolen at church last Sunday — whether stupider was a word. I told her that if somebody used it, since she could understand it, it was a word. Whether anybody ought to have used it in all situations is a different question. Formal writing’s different from just talk, and I have frequently said so. Told her to talk like she wanted to. (She and her husband remembered me, bless their hearts, from that affectionate column, “Last seen in bow tie and fedora, the dictionary has gone missing,” when I was sacked by The Sun. Nothing wrong with gone missing, even if it was British first. You want a first-rate hat, you go to Hippodrome Hatters on Baltimore Street, they’ll fix you up.) Anyhow, just passing time here waiting for another job interview, the thing is, you gonna write for publication, you gotta consider your audience and what level of diction and syntax fits your subject and your publication and your audience. That’s what matters there. But let people talk the way they want. Like you could stop them anyhow.
Posted by John McIntyre at 3:12 PM 21 comments:
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