Saturday, March 30, 2013

The next best thing to lying

Here's  a lovely bit* of news framing from the Fair 'n' Balanced Network, and it's either going to take you back to your first-year macroeconomics class or last fall's election, whichever:

The U.S. economy is teetering further on the edge of recession, with revised numbers showing economic growth clocking in at an anemic rate at the end of 2012.

We're at the dimly lit corner of Evidence and Opinion here. On the one hand, there's data: the stuff we collect, or monitor the collection of, so we can draw reasonably consistent conclusions from it. On the other are the conclusions themselves: what the data mean, or ought to mean, in the context of real life. And whatever the pesky facts, we're all entitled to our own opinions about them -- at least, that's the core of the whole "marketplace of ideas" thing that we can trace back to Milton or Mill or whoever.

There comes the occasional time, though, when the sanctity of opinion runs up against a particularly nasty outcrop of fact:

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Stop press!

Water ran downhill, said two scientists not affiliated with the study.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

There'll always be a noun pile

This must be why tabloids have Deputy Defence Editors:

A WOUNDED squaddie who had just lost both legs in a Taliban bomb blast begged a medic to show him her boobs — to help relieve his agony.

There is a point of syntax and practice here on which I solicit the input of our friendly UK subs as well as syntaxheads of all nationalities. I'm familiar with the idea of using prepositional phrases in heds, rather than scrambling around for a verb that fits and isn't libelous, and my first instinct is to think of the subject in those heds as an actor -- somebody who makes or gives the thing that's the object of the preposition:

Escaped gorilla in bid to eat toddler
US military chief in Iran warning
Pool mum in bid to save drowned boy

But in looking through the files, I see cases where the subject is the receiver of an action or event:

Yob brothers in hoods ban
Lad on jogger stabbing rap

Since the medic in question was mentioned in despatches for the rescue, inquiring minds want to know: If you're a Sun reader, can you tell who's the hero in this hed? Or is there more than one?

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Monday, March 18, 2013

No, don't

And while you're at it, don't write "still dancing" in a week.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

A billion here, a billion there ...

From the paper that brought you Times v. Sullivan:

An article on Wednesday about a proposal from an M.I.T. doctoral student to remake the student assignment system used by Boston’s schools misstated the reason for the implementation of court-ordered busing in the city in the 1970s. It was to end segregation, not desegregation.

War on Editing or not, sometimes a really determined error is going to slip through all the defenses.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sinks drown phony rats vanish jerk

Several months old now, but too good to pass up: Rats out LI vanish jerk!

Not so much word salad as word gazpacho.

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Who did what to whom?

OK, syntax and crime-n-cops fans, who murdered whom?

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The first shock came when a leading Lebanese newspaper published a confidential list of 17 witnesses who may testify in the murder trial of a former prime minister — showing their names, passport pictures, dates of birth and where they work.
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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Peel me a ... no, don't

If you're coing to be glever, at least make sure the slice of fruit looks like a "G."

Are the kids over at Gawker serious, though? Worst headline in newspaper history? Somebody needs to get out more.

(Thanks to Cody for the share.)

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Keep calm and look it up

There's really a limited number of times we ought to have to say this, but -- shut up, BuzzFeed. You're as entitled to your peeves as anyone, but you shouldn't imagine that they're universal, and if you think you've just demonstrated in some novel way that the world is going to semantic hell in a handbasket, you should calm down and read the stuff you're citing.

The OED, for instance. It does indeed point out that figurative "literally" is "now one of the most common uses, although often considered irregular in standard English." But it does not suggest that the usage is new or that Those Kids with their baseball caps and rock 'n' roll have somehow forced it upon an unwilling public. Rather, it traces the not-literally form of "literally" to -- um, 1769. "Literally" has literally meant "figuratively" longer than the US has been a country, and if you have a problem with that, take it up with Mark Twain. And, yes, it still manages to mean "literally" as well; that's literally like being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.


Monday, March 04, 2013

National Grammar Day

Did you look out the window on Saturday and notice that the heavens had not darkened? Did you fetch the morning paper* from the lawn without having to brush frogs and locusts from your locustgear? Then we can safely conclude that our friends in Wichita were not smitten for daring to use singular "data" in this perfectly sensible 1A hed.

Which seems to me a nice way of celebrating National Grammar Day: separating the sundry peeves, whims and secret handshakes that belong under "style" from the courtly art of grammar. Subject-verb agreement is getting along just fine, no matter what Those Kids with their iPhones and uptalk and singular "data" do. The language is not at risk of being destroyed. "Data" has been an English noun for some centuries now, and nobody should be dismayed if it pulls up its socks and acts like one.

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Sunday, March 03, 2013

Cheering in the pressbox

Worse than Yankees fans, those Pittsburgh Seminarians.

(h/t The Ridger)


Friday, March 01, 2013

Life imitates Com3210

No sooner do you get done lecturing about the Teemortal Sin of making hed puns on athletes' (or anyone's) names than someone goes and provides a fresh illustration.

So ... no. I don't get "harassed" out of "Harris-ed" (partly because of the hyphen), and I can't see defeat as something you could be harassed into (unlike, say, climbing up the water tower to paint BEAT DOOK in giant orange letters), and I don't get why I'm looking at a picture of some guy in blue and reading about Ryan Kelly if the hed is supposed to prime me for Joe Harris's big night.* Please don't do this again.

And a note of thanks to all you patient readers who keep checking in and supplying notice of fresh outrages.  Regular postings resume sometime soon.

* The linked version of the story is from the N&O; the screen grab is from Charlotte. In the era of editing hubs and merged sports sections, the demons chuckle and yell for each alike.