Read and enjoy
Here's a round-up of some articles I enjoyed over the weekend:
* Take a peek behind the scenes at the Contra Costa Times' copy desk. The article is written by the paper's copy chief, Courtney Semple, and she gives numerous on-deadline examples, including this one:
Another headline that prompted strong reactions was the Times' Dec. 27 edition, the first to report the devastating South Asia tsunami. The main headline read, "Epic quake, deadly wake." The subheads: "Wall of water kills more than 13,000 across Southeast Asia," and "Masses die as sea rushes in, then out." Some copy editors felt the main headline was too flip; many others felt it captured the dimensions of the tragedy. I hoped it achieved its purpose, to let the horror of the event speak for itself.
* William Safire, retiring from his op-ed columns but going strong with his "On Language" work, writes about increasing use of "annus horribilis" and its derivations. And he takes a look at Colin Powell's language on "Meet the Press." He derided some media sources as "Rolodex rangers" and used "audible" as a verb.
* This article on blasphemy should be interesting to language lovers. It talks about the evidence that we're hard-wired to swear when something really bad happens -- "'They will tell you, if I say "[expletive]," it makes me feel better than when I say "darn,"' said Timothy Jay, author of 'Why We Curse' and a psychology professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts." The article also quotes Geoffrey Nunberg. But the story also mentions a quote that's been making the rounds:
A chance remark can reveal a heck of a lot more than we intend. Last month, the editor of the Jewish weekly newspaper The Forward defended the inclusion of Madonna on the paper's annual list of most influential Jews in America. But isn't she Catholic?
"She's a practitioner of the Kabbalah, so she's practicing Judaism, for Christ's sake!" the editor, J.J. Goldberg, told the New York Daily News. "Well, not really for Christ's sake."
* James Kilpatrick's column covers finding the perfect simile (and, as an extension, identifying the ones that don't work).
* A column on language pet peeves from the Ventura County Star in California.
* More practice on who vs. whom, from Steven Wilbers.