Archive for the ‘Language’ Category
Rule No. 34: Sources we like say “going to” and “want to.” Sources we don’t like say “gonna” and “wanna.”
It’s National Grammar Day. It’s also the 19th anniversary of the death of the great comedian John Candy. To celebrate, here’s a clip from “Canadian Bacon” that brings them together.
I’ve updated The Reader’s Guide to Journalists with two new entries. Check it out and pass along your proposed rules.
Over at msnbc.com, I recently chronicled the announcement that the Queen’s English Society is disbanding after 40 years of fighting to preserve the language in amber against the impurities of modern speech and Twitterese.
In the spirit of fairness, I wanted to point you to this gloriously dyspeptic objection in defense of the society and of “proper” English by Brendan O’Neill, the editor of Spiked, an author whom I admire.
I vigorously disagree with O’Neill here, but I get a big kick out of his precocious curmudgeonry. It’s worth a read.
And from the archives, here’s an explanation of why I write the way I write, for those of you who may wonder why I disagree when my own writing seems so formal.
I envy the newly minted journalists entering our profession today. The tools at their disposal are so much more powerful that they were when I broke in 28 years ago at The Macon Telegraph in Georgia, which were: A notepad. And a pen.
But there’s one thing I wouldn’t trade from that era for all the avenues open to today’s younger journalists: the privilege of learning my craft in relative obscurity.
At The Telegraph, the circulation was a shade under 50,000. That was about the largest number of people I could reach. Today’s young journalist can immediately reach an audience that encompasses anyone in the world with an Internet connection.
That must be terrifying.
I’m reminded of this by the outrage that greeted the publication of a headline on ESPN.com over the weekend. It used an ethnic slur on a story about the New York Knicks’ out-of-nowhere star, Jeremy Lin, the first American-born player of Chinese descent to play in the NBA.
Over at msnbc.com, I’m tracking the attack on the CIA’s website, allegedly by Anonymous.
There’s an interesting language issue here. Several major news organizations are reporting that Anonymous “hacked” the CIA. Maybe; maybe not. The CIA isn’t commenting.
Initially, it appeared that a straightforward DDoS flood knocked out cia.gov. That’s not a “hack,” which implies some sort of infiltration of the host or its servers. It’s an attack from outside.
As of this writing, the site has been down more than four hours, which is an unusually long time for a robust agency to recover from a DDoS attack. That raises the possibility that the site remains down for some other reason. It could be some other kind of penetrating operation, which you could call a hack. Or it could yet have been a DDoS assault, and the CIA may be keeping the site down while it investigates and scrubs it for security holes. Not a hack.
From an article that obviously was run through editing software in a shop that had no one to review the output:
However, if one is wearing a little african american dress, a fun concept is to pair that with any different color of shoe, such as red flats, blue sends, or any other style that fits one’s fancy.
Don’t think too hard about how that might be pronounced.
Google News picks up a grisly story from Reuters and gets bitten by its computerized presentation:
Here’s the headline:
Body of missing Brooklyn boy found in freezer, trash
Here’s the caption Google News automatically generated, because Reuters includes a picture-of-the-day feature on its story pages:
A host of new surveys don’t paint a pretty picture for many small businesses. Uncertainty about the economy, slow retail sales and high commodity prices have small business owners in the dumps this summer.
There’s no one to blame for this, really. But it does illustrate, tastelessly and uncomfortably, that it will be a long time — perhaps not in my lifetime — before human editors are totally dispensable.
Agree or disagree? Will computers some day be able to completely replace us? Let me know in the comments.