Monday, August 25, 2008

Let This Be a Lesson to Them

Those Typo Eradication guys needed this advice from Miss Manners--which oddly enough came 
on Wednesday, August 20, two days before the news hit about the sentencing of the Eradicators.

(Miss Manners writes for the Washington Post; s'pose she knew they were on trial?)

. . . neither of us can run around insulting people, which is what an amazing number of people do when they detect errors, little thinking that they are committing worse errors in so doing.

This applies to correcting individuals, however, not institutions. So you may inform those in authority to act (which the salesperson you approached probably was not) on mistakes of which you sympathetically know they would want to be aware

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tell Your Typo Eradication Adventure Here

Over at Mighty Red Pen, where MRP linked to her newspaper's version of this story about the Typo Eradication Advancement League vigilantes who've been zinged for defacing a permanent sign in a national park (not just a sign--a national historic monument of a sign), a couple of us were defending the practice of writing on vending-machine signs or even bad graffitti.

Why defending it? Well, bcs we'd done it, now and then.

Tell YOUR typo eradication story--what signs have you corrected?

Here's mine!

Years ago I worked on lower Fifth Avenue, and spent a lot of time waiting for the R train at 23rd Street to go uptown (and home). Subways ran slower then.

There was a spelling error (something like a missing "m" in "accommodate") in one of the posters on the platform that I stared at for weeks on end.

Several months later, at a party w/ friends, someone said, "Hey, I was in your subway stop yesterday!" What stop, and how'd you know if was *my* stop? I asked. "Because you fixed a typo on an ad."

He'd seen the fix on the poster, carefully indicated with proofreader's marks, and thought of me immediately ("Toots should see this correction. She'd laugh."). Then he'd walked over to the NEXT poster, which had a drawing of the map of the U.S., w/ state borders sketched in. And had seen a little star in southern Iowa, w/ the name of my hometown written next to it.

He figured, there weren't 2 people from my 1,300-population "city" in NYC. It had to be me.


(Oh, and I did actually fix an apostrophe on graffitti in the tunnel under the 42nd St. A-train station, once. And I checked carefully for cops, or even witnesses, before I did it.)

So, tell your story about what you've fixed--and where would you draw the line?
Today's Controversial Decision

I decided not to pay for it; the story's in matchprint already, and it'd be $400.

The error: " your grandmother's bridal bouquet can be easily recreated at your own wedding."

A hyphen is tradition: re-created.

But I think readers will go right to the proper meaning; we seldom use any form of "recreate" as a verb.

What would you have done?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Freudian Typo?

The Amazing Jayme just alerted me to this amazing typo.

Quick, quick, go look, before the AP fixes it:

His top contenders are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Less traditional choices mentioned include former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an abortion-rights supporter, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential prick in 2000 who now is an independent.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Just Use the Trademark, Already!

When I worked on our company's "fun with and for kids" magazine, we had big debates about certain terminology.

Popsicle being one.

Popsicle is a trademark, and so we avoided it. Even though often we wished we could use it. First for the dessert treat, and second for the flat sticks w/ rounded ends that make great log cabins, etc.

For the food, we called them ice pops.

For the sticks? although I certainly called them "Popsicle sticks" as a kid, and that's an instantly recognizable term--we avoided it for crafts done w/ those flat sticks. Technically, they are named "craft sticks."

When you go to buy a bunch of them at the craft store, that's what the package will be labeled. Image and video hosting by TinyPic

If you want to buy a bunch online, that's what you should search for. (And of course, you don't want to use TRUE Popsicle sticks, bcs they'll be stained red or purple, and sticky to boot*.)

We sometimes used the term "ice-pop sticks" for food references ("use ice-pop sticks for the corn dogs," e.g.). Our ice-pop recipes called for ice-pop molds, or paper cups and "pop sticks."

Why am I writing about this? Here is what I saw in this morning's funnies. Note the term "ice-cream sticks."

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
The comic strip One Big Happy for 8/15

It took me a while to get this joke, first bcs I blanked at "ice-cream sticks" (they're technically "ice-cream bar sticks" anyway) and second because "those sticks are sold separately" made me assume you had to buy one stick at a time.

If the writer wren't trying so hard to avoid the trademark, it would have been a much easier joke.

What trademark do you wish was a generic?

*And where did "to boot" come from? I'll look that up later.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Videographic Semicolon

I just googled "lots of semicolons"--don't ask me why; I think I'm on a kick.

And found this, which made me chuckle.

Michael Fontenot, a songwriter and videographer, apparently finds semicolons, and the use thereof, amusing.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

First, Be Sure It Was a Mistake

Check out this, at the errors blog for Reuters,

The original story read:
Hygiene hypothesis’ may be tied to bowel disease

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children who grow up in a spick-and-span home may have a higher risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease, a study suggests.

A reader sent a "gotcha!" e-mail, and said:

I believe it should be spelled S-P-I-C . Adding the K makes it a pejorative.

The product is named “Spic and Span”.



And--here is what REALLY SET ME OFF!!-- the Reuters editor responded:
We corrected: GBU Editor

First, first, first--the sentence is NOT referring to the PRODUCT.

The original phrase, the idiom of long usage, is "spick-and-span." It's short for "spick-and-span new," in which the "spick" from from the obscure English "spick" meaning spike, and "span-new" meant "brand-new." And the phrase has evolved from meaning "brand, spanking new," through "in phenomenally great condition," to "spotlessly clean."

In fact, when the company that created that cleaning product wanted a name, they DELIBERATELY misspelled the idiomatic phrase, in order to *differentiate* it, to make their brand name trademark-able. This is a very common trademark strategy (witness Lite beer, Zip-Loc bags).

(side note: My dictionary gives "spic-and-span" as an alternate, but I wonder how old that is, and whether its rise was influenced by the arrival of the brand name.)

And, the pejorative IS "spic"--short for Hispanic.  (**well, maybe that's not where it came from; like a doofus I wrote what I had always assumed. See the comments for Fritinancy's research on possible origin of the pejorative term)

OK, OK, the reader is unfamiliar with the idiom, and overly familiar with the product, and completely un-understanding of trademarks, and products versus adjectives.

But why oh why did the GBU editor *correct* the mistake????

Just because someone took the effort to write and tell you you're wrong, doesn't mean they are right.

(as Terry Pratchett's character Tiffany Aching muses in Wintersmith, "just because someone is old and has no teeth doesn't mean they're wise.")

I still remember the snotty letter I got at McCall's informing me that the *proper* term is "chaise lounge."

And the letter that took issue with the headline "Eat Safe" (to which I responded w/ a letter introducing her to the concept of the "flat adverb," and the dictionary listing of "safe" *as* an adverb, as well as sharing w/ her our worries that "Eat Safely" implied we were afraid you'd stab yourself w/ the fork).

What have you been accused of getting wrong--when in fact you were right?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Holy Toledo, the Same Eggcorn, but the Other Direction!

Reading the beauty copy, in First Proof, gives me this sentence.

. . . day and night creams contain coffeeberry extract to help lighten brown spots, calm redness, and defuse fine lines.

I'm thinking they means "diffuse" (though that's not really the right word either; they mean "smooth out" or "minimize").

I swear, they're on a kick! (this one, the person before me queried, at least)

What eggcorn or other wrong word choice do you keep seeing?
Would You Trust This Cat With a Red Pencil?

I love the LOL cats

would you trust this cat with a red pencil?

more cat pictures">

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tidal Waves and Increments

I got my love of language from my mom (and my dad, but probably mostly my mom).

(in fact, she was the first person ever to say to me, "Look it up." And she introduced me to my first "eggcorn" [though we didn't call it that at the time]--"next store to the post office")

And I grew up reading the Des Moines Register (and the Des Moines Tribune). At the paper drop, before delivering them on my route. (I got my start as a paperboy.)

Today, Mom sent me a link to a DMR story with the following graph:

Sexual assault and harassment cases reported at the University of Iowa have shown no signs of waning in the past five years — in fact, they have ebbed upward by some measures, campus experts say.

Iowa's a landlocked state, as you can tell.

Ebbed upward? What in the world do they think the word “ebb” means?

“Move slowly, as slowly as the tide,” I guess. Mom guesses they meant to say "edged upward."

Oh, and then there's the headline: 

Few cases reach U of I office

Few cases of WHAT? I looked for an overarching head, but couldn't find one on the page.

I went looking to see if it was a subsection of a larger article about "sexual harrassment at colleges"

I'm guessing that it's a sidebar to this story:
U of I professor gets paid leave in bribery case

but there's no link between the two stories on the website.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Pete and Repeat

I left my desk to do something, and forgot what it was. 

"Oh, well," I said, "it'll reoccur to me."

The next day, my daughter said, "Oh, Mom . . . I was going to ask you something, and I forgot what it was."

"Don't worry," I said, "it'll reoccur to you."

Things occur to us; they come to mind.

But if they leave, couldn't they come back--the same thought? Of course--so why don't we generally say, "it reoccurred to me"?

Oh, people use that term--I got 43 (or 27, depending) Ghits (EggcornDatabase speak for Google hits)

Why *don't* we use "reoccur" in that manner?

And why *do* we use "recur" (to come again to mind)? That's just silly.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Juneau, the Capital of Norway?*

My best friend (another copyeditor/managing editor type, natch**) just came back from an Alaskan cruise. (She went to Hawaii last year; did I mention, I went to Hawaii this summer?)

"How was it?" I asked. How were the mountains, the glaciers?

"Beautiful," she said. 

"Really different from Hawaii, right?" I asked. (did I mention, I went to Hawaii this summer? Of course, she went last year, so of course she knew what I meant)

"Well, some things weren't different. The same humpback whales that are in Hawaii in the winter are in Alaska in the summer."

"Did they say  hello?" I asked. 

"Yeah," she said, and went on to say that the glaciers glowed blue, as if there was light inside them. "It was amazing to see the fjords."

"Wait," I interrupted her. (of course I interrupted her; she's my best friend--didn't I say?--and who can you interrupt if not your best friend?) "Can you legally have fjords in America?"

"Yes," she said patiently. (of course she said it patiently; she's my best friend--didn't I say?--and who needs more patience for you than your best friend? and who gets more practice at it than your best friend?)

"A fjord is extremely deep, and still, and created by a glacier. Well, I'm pretty sure that's the definition. Look it up."

Look it up. Can you tell she's my best friend, and a copyeditor type?

So, I did.

fjord: a narrow inlet of the sea between steep slopes. 

Must be.

*Oslo on the  uptake, sometimes. Yuk, yuck.

**someday I'll tell you about me and "natch." Like my best friend, you'll be a little bemused.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Another Eggcorn in My Kingdom

Same story, still First Proof, a few paragraphs later:

"[She] suggests giving your parents free reign over some elements..."

The idiom "free rein" originally sprang from the idea that spirited horse, once its rider let the reins go free, would take off and go anywhere he wanted, without direction.

But as fewer and fewer people ride (know anyone who does regularly?), the regal imagery came to the fore.

An Eggcorn--on My Territory

I love eggcorns--some of them are better than the original turn of phrase.

Today, one hit my desk, in first proof, no less!

"Most weddings come with a healthy dollop of tense exchanges and awkward moments.... Diffusing these conflicts with grace is a must."

OK, setting aside the question of whether tense exchange are ever healthy, look at "diffuse."

Here's why I love eggcorns--good ones make perfect sense!

But of course, the idiomatic term is "defusing these conflicts"--and perhaps it's still the better term, bcs if you defuse them, you can stop them from blowing up in the first place. Diffusing them simply lessens the stinkiness.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Napoleonic Semicolon

I love the semicolon. So of course I'm a fan of The Semicolon's Dream Journal. (In fact, I want him to write an entry based on this post.*)

And a recent article in The Guardian had an explanation of the death of the semicolon.

I've been traveling back in time by immersing myself in Naomi Novik's "Temeraire" series. A fantasy mixed with a military history, the three novels written so far postulate what would happen if dragons were part of the world in the Napoleonic Era--the "air force" of their respective countries.

Novik does a wonderful job of creating a syntax and grammar choice that feels authentic. Lord alone knows if it is; Novik was an English lit. major, and has clearly done her homework on the period, but I don't know if her sentence structure and word choices are true to the writing of the period. But if they are not authentic, they are certainly effective.

Word order is part of it. But punctuation probably has a bigger effect. And is more pervasive.

I realized yesterday, and verified yesterday and today, that she places a semicolon in 4 out of every 5 paragraphs. For every 2 paragraphs with NO semicolon, there's a single graph with TWO.

*I dreamed I traveled with Naomi Novik to a dragon covert outside Dover, and made my leg to Temeraire; his captain, Will Laurence, greeted me most warmly. The great black dragon engaged me on the topic of literacy; though he does not read, he enjoys books immensely, and has his captain read to him of a night.