Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More stuff

Will “lifting luggage” become a catchphrase to match “hiking the Appalachian Trail”?

Go to Language Log for the linguistics; stay for the snickering over hypocrisy.

Roger Ebert tweets:

“ discusses my Newsweek attack on 3D. Some comments debate my status as an old fart. I'm an old fart who's right”

I feel a kinship.

We told you you needed editors

At, a report that Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s name has been misspelled in her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as “Julia Luis Dreyfus.”

You may also recall that the director of Chile’s mint was recently fired, in part because the mint issued 50-peso coins spelling the nation’s name as “Chiie.”

A message from Patrick Lackey on a Washington Post story “about the Virginia attorney general seeking documents by a former U of Va. prof named Michael Mann, who did research on global warming. The story quotes the attorney general: ‘There is no scientific consensus on global warming or Mann's influence on global warning.’ I think the attorney general meant ‘man's influence on global warning,’ not Mann's. So how is a newspaper like an off-short oil rig? What can go wrong will.”

Just how big a geek are you?

We learn from Copyediting that Mary Beth Protomastro has set up a website that will allow you to search more than forty online stylebooks at once. This should help you to learn how to live with inconsistency.

Our impoverished profanity

When Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan repeatedly used a word rendered in newspapers as “sh—y” while questioning executives of Goldman Sachs, a thrill went through journalistic circles because he had used a Bad Word in public. That was followed by much brow-furrowing over how to report the expression, given the delicate sensibilities of the American public. The crossword-puzzle solution, a combination of letters and hyphens to get thisclose to the word without actually rendering it, was the usual resort.

I will, of course, in my new capacity as a tinpot authority in The Sun’s newsroom, enforce the puerilities demanded by newspaper style, but as you reflect on naughty expressions, I invite you to consider a short passage from H.L. Mencken’s The American Language (shield your eyes, sensitive readers):

“Of the non-profane pejoratives in common American use, son of a bitch is the hardest-worked, and by far. ... But son of a bitch seems as pale and ineffectual to a Slav or Latin as fudge does to us. The dumbest policeman in Palermo thinks up a dozen better ones between breakfast and the noon whistle. ... In Standard Italian there are no less than forty congeners of son of a bitch, and each and every one of them is more opprobrious, more brilliant, more effective. In the Neapolitan dialect there are thousands.”


  1. Patrick K. LackeyMay 5, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    When I wrote "offshort oil rig," I meant "offshore oil rig," but the mistake was okay because the comment was about newspaper mistakes.

  2. How about good ol' 1337-speak, something like "5#1tty" or "$?1tty".

    Welcome back to the Sun. I feel a close affinity to you, having just watched Season 5 of The Wire.

  3. Re the last graph, I once saw an Italian movie on TV that took place in the Renaissance. One character yells out at the people attacking his castle. The dubbed version rendered what he said as "damn you" or something similar. But his mouth was running for a minute more. I guess the original version contained some more inventive Italian invective.

  4. So, does Mencken's musing reflect the versatility of the Italian language or the sexual promiscuity of the Italians?

  5. Things are done a bit differently in Canada. To wit:

    Campbell Clark
    Ottawa — From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
    Published on Monday, May. 03, 2010 9:02PM EDT
    Last updated on Tuesday, May. 04, 2010 3:03PM EDT

    Nancy Ruth is a Conservative senator and pro-choice feminist. She worries that aid activists, pressuring the Harper government to include access to abortion in a G8 initiative, will only touch off a backlash. She has some friendly advice for them.

    “We have five weeks or whatever until the G8 starts. Shut the fuck up – on this issue,” Ms. Ruth said.

    Ms. Ruth issued her salty warning on Monday, at a Parliament Hill gathering to discuss the declining place of women’s rights in Canada’s foreign policy. When the aid groups criticized the Harper government’s decision not to fund abortion as part of its initiative to reduce the deaths of mothers and young children, Ms. Ruth counselled self-censorship.