Monday, January 23, 2006

Weekend roundup

A copy editor took Ray Nagin's chocolate comment out of the first-day wire story at the Louisville Courier Journal. He was trying to avoid offending readers, he said, and so only included Nagin's comment that New Orleans would again be "a majority African American city." Readers accused the paper of covering up for Nagin. The public editor wrote a column addressing the problem and took the chance to praise copy editors and the many plates they keep spinning. ("We dropped a plate here; we didn't smash the china cabinet.") Testy Copy Editors has a related thread.

The Sacramento Bee's public editor writes that there were groans in the newsroom when they had to run this correction recently: "A story on Metro Page B2 Sunday about a spelling bee misspelled the name of Leroy Greene Middle School." The rest of the column is devoted to how the paper tracks corrections. Like other papers, the Bee has started tracking them in a computer database.

Barbara Wallraff's syndicated column discusses the origin of the phrase for good, meaning permanently. The phrase, much like thanks to, can often be used in situations that are neither good nor deserve thanks -- a company shutting down for good thanks to a recession, for example. Also covered: woe is me and thanks to I.

James Kilpatrick picks apart the new book "Weasel Words: The Dictionary of American Doublespeak." "Functionally it is quite worthless -- it's a guest-room book for an insomniac bibliophile." He lists numerous terms that he doesn't believe qualify as weasel words; I'd have to disagree on at least a few, though. However, it sounds like the book is more a list of cliches and might be useful to read through just to keep you on the alert. But it's not going to teach you much.

Pinecones used to be called pineapples, and pineapples were so named because they looked like big pinecones. Also, varsity was originally a shortened version of university that meant the same.


At 5:38 PM, January 29, 2006, Blogger Doug Fisher said...


I think your wording here might be misleading: "The phrase, much like thanks to, can often be used in situations that are neither good nor deserve thanks."

Yours makes it sound as though Wallraff supports "thanks to" in situations like a plant closing. But she writes: "For instance, we might read, 'The company closed thanks to a downturn in the economy.' No need to thank anyone for that!"

I agree with her heartily on that. The unthinking use of "thanks to" is one of the -- albeit minor -- plagues of good copy.

At 3:39 PM, January 30, 2006, Blogger Nicole said...

Doug, you're right; my word choice was poor. I couldn't agree with you more and actually had a post on the topic a few years ago.


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