Thursday, April 30, 2009

Not All Synonyms Are Created Equal

Twice in this issue, I've taken out the word "festoon."

Don't get me wrong, I like the word. It has a great sound, it's unusual without being weird. It feels festive and gay. And in fact, it comes from the word "festival."

But it has a very special meaning--it doesn't just mean "decorate." A festoon is a decorative chain that hangs between two buttons on a double-breasted coat (usually military). And, of course, any similar sort of decoration.

So, to "festoon" something is to attach a garland that drapes from spot to spot to spot. Unfortunately, we were using it to describe simple decorations.

What word have you seen stripped of its nuances and specificity?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Copyediting Errors with Consequences!

I found this in my e-mail in box during a housekeeping session, and remembered that I'd meant to post about it.

Back at the end of January, the Girl brought home a note from school about tardinesses for the previous months. On it was written this:


Days tardy


Some background--now that she's in high school, the Girl travels to school under her own steam, and her school is not far away and starts a bit later than we're used to. But nonetheless we'd felt throughout the end of the year that she was leaving a bit late and had been asking about it. She's a teenager--she's hard to get up in the morning.

She kept assuring us that she hadn't been tardy--and then we get this note!!!

So we kind of landed on her. And told her that she needed to talk with her teachers or whoever to find out how they can change the signals they give (or how she can read them more accurately) if she thinks she wasn't late when she was.

Then, the next day, I got to thinking about it. What with vacations, and an odd teacher-prep day, there were only 15 days of school in that entire month! How could she have been tardy that  many times? So I was *really* mad at her.

But my Husband sent a note to the parent coordinator.
> We received a letter from [school] recently that flagged the Girl's* being late for
> school in December. Was she late on December 11th or was she late 11 times? The
> letter says one thing. My daughter is saying another.
> Much appreciation if you can clarify this. Thanks.

And we got this reply (emphasis mine):

Hi Mr. Husband,
> She was late on the 11th. Not including "th's" and other indicators on the
> letters has caused a lot of misunderstandings
- I apologize for the confusion.
> Grace was definitely not late eleven times!
> Best,

According to the Girl, some kids had notes that read:


 Days absent


And there aren't even 23 days of school in a normal month!


*did you notice that properly done genetive preceding the gerund? Sigh. . . .

Monday, April 27, 2009

He Prepositioned Me!

The Boy, who is now 11 years of age, prepositioned me this weekend!

We were planning the Pinewood Derby, and I was telling him that I felt we should drill the holes for the quarters (to add weight to the car so it meets the standard) over the weekend instead of leaving it for the Scout Master to do the night of the Derby itself.

"He won't have time to be drilling any holes in the car that night," I said.

"Mom, he won't be in the car," said my son. "He'll be in the meeting room."

Sigh! It's enough to make a parent proud.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Comma, No Comma

(I promise, I think of other things, too--I'll post about them eventually.)

Today my freelance copyeditor inserted a comma:

At this A-list, oceanfront beach bar

I don't like it. What do you think?

(wait--I think the bar is probably fine--it's the comma I don't like)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Comma, No Comma

Okay, here's today's:

cost-effective, pressure-regulated soda siphon

I took the comma out. WWYD?



Thursday, April 02, 2009

Comma, No Comma?

Here's today's question. In a story about beaches, we find:

blue, Aegean water

I took the comma out: "blue Aegean water"

Your vote?