Monday, January 24, 2005

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.

5 Comments:

At 7:40 PM, January 24, 2005, Blogger Peter Fisk said...

Re: Kilpatrick

There's a show called "Desperate Wives" now? Surely the producers of "Desperate Housewives" will be taking some sort of legal action. (I've never seen either show, so I really can't speak authoritatively on the matter.)

 
At 9:10 PM, January 24, 2005, Blogger Peter Fisk said...

Also, is he praising "as busy as a yard sale"? I don't even know what the expression means. Does it mean busy, or not busy? Most yard sales that I've seen are little more than unattended, static, loosely organized piles of trash.

 
At 9:40 PM, January 25, 2005, Blogger Phillip Blanchard said...

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.

***She used a rhyming hed on the tsunami story? Good God.***

 
At 10:20 PM, January 25, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

I know, Phil! That's why I used that as an excerpt. I'd have to agree with the other editors on that desk: A rhyming headline there was inappropriate.

 
At 10:41 PM, January 25, 2005, Blogger English Professor said...

I'm delighted to find your blog. I can't say that I'll miss Safire--the supposed master of language annoyed the heck out of me by asserting in one column that "ethicists believe in the greatest good for the greatest number." Yeah, *utilitarians* believe that, but since when did "utilitarian" and "ethicist" come to be interchangeable words? Either he's not the master, or he was deliberately misleading.

My biggest "ize" complaint, which I swear I saw in a mainstream print source: "blenderize." It's not enough that we have blenders which blend things--no, now we have blenders which blenderize. I swear, people who write like that really annoyerize me.

 

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