Friday, September 30, 2005

Pet peeves

AJR has a piece on journalists' grammatical pet peeves. It includes the usual suspects, but a couple of gems are tucked in between.

From Andrea Billups, a staff correspondent at People magazine:
"I once worked at a paper where the top editor banned in a memo use of the term 'nitty gritty,' claiming it was Jazz-era slang for female genitalia. Having looked it up, I'm fairly sure that it's not. I suppose I would agree that it's jargon, though. But that was never the argument. It seems, in retrospect, a tad nutty if you ask me, but most editors, if they last long enough, come up with these insipid sacred cows that they enforce just because they can. Maybe it's just editorial dementia."
From Allan Fallow, managing editor of AARP Books:
"In the pages of a Time-Life book, you could not instruct the public to 'chop the onions finely'; ex-Managing Editor Jerry Korn insisted that adverb technically applied to the person doing the chopping, thus giving him or her a mincing appearance. Instead, he mandated all Time-Life cookbooks would henceforth command the reader to 'chop the onions fine,' employing an adjective that properly described the post-chopped condition of those vegetables."
And here's one -- from Linda Fibich, the Washington bureau chief for Newhouse News Service -- that I share wholeheartedly:
"'Declined comment.' As in, 'No thank you; I had a comment for breakfast.' A source declines TO comment."
I've had perfectly reasonable editors argue with me on that one. But I'd love to see them justify "he declined respond." Hmph.


At 3:57 PM, September 30, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what would it mean to chop the nitty gritty finely? No comment...

At 4:27 PM, September 30, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

Naughty, naughty, Mike.

I was curious about the nitty-gritty thing and found that it had been banned from use by some English police officers because of a speculative origin (which holds little credence among linguists) that it referred to "debris left in the bottom of a slave ships at the end of a voyage."

At 10:24 PM, October 04, 2005, Blogger Doug said...

So why don't we just do away with that overwrought word anyhow and simply say the person "would not" comment --or would that be too plebeian?

Unless of course you say to your cat or significant other: I think I'll decline to take out the garbage tonight.

At 10:22 AM, August 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kinda reminds me of a certain VP's edict that the word "demographics" not appear in his magazine as a column heading because it was "overly broad" and not specific enough..


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