Thursday, June 19, 2008

Really,  we all know that term already. Kill the quotes.

Grumpy moment.

In Newsday's breathless, indignant coverage of what they characterized as the NY Mets' cowardly middle-of-the-night firing of Willie Randolph (comma after cowardly?), the Wed., June 18 installation has a sidebar (jargon, don't use it in print) titled "How Willie Managed to Get Fired." (OK, they use sentence style, so to truly quote it, I guess you'd write "How Willie managed to get fired," but I'd rather use my internal style for titles than their design idiosyncracy)

The first graph has this sentence:

. . . Randolph is called into a meeting . . . for what is characterized as a "pep" talk before facing the Yankees.

OK, why the quotes? and why the stupid placement of them?

In the first place, we all know what a pep talk is. This is not obscure jargon; there's no  need to put quotes around it.

In the second place, the phrase "what is characterized as" tells us that someone other than the reporter (but of course, the reporter doesn't tell us WHO characterized it as such) has described the encounter in a way that makes this term applicable.
     I suppose the quotation marks could be a way of telling us that this mysterious person (Randolph? gen mgr. Minaya? COO Wilpon? the PR guy?) use that actual terminology, instead of the reporter's having use his own terminology (as I did above).


This is where I'm really crabby. The term is "pep talk."  Colloquial speakers of English don't use the word "pep" by itself, most of the time, and when you do, you're not usually combining it w/ a word that means "talk" but ISN'T "talk." What, a pep conversation? OK, OK, "pep rally," but that's not a meeting/conversation; that's a whole darn crowd, complete w/ cheerleaders.

So--comma after cowardly?

And make a guess--did the PR guy really use the term "pep talk," or did the reporter hear the description, and pick that term as recognizable to readers?


Editrix said...

I bet the PR guy used the term "pep talk," but I like to think (I hope! I hope! I hope!) that the quotes were the reporter's way of signaling irony. So, if this real-life sidebar were actually a my-life-is-a-movie-and-I'm-writing-the-script sidebar, then the "pep" talk would really be an anti-pep talk. It would be, like, a real downer of a talk. People would be shamed. Grown men would cry. A montage of Randolph's failures, shot through a soft-focus lens, would start up. It would be awesome.

TootsNYC said...

I hadn't thought about that angle!

The Ridger, FCD said...

I think editrix is right - these are irony quotes.

Comma after cowardly? You could, for emphasis that it was cowardly AS WELL AS middle-of-the-night. But it's fine without.