Friday, August 28, 2009

'Tis the seasonable

Whatever you might say about their syntactic peeves, copy editors used to take great pride in keeping this sort of thing off the front page of your major metropolitan daily. The "rates" in question are unemployment:

Unlike statewide rates, the rates reported for the city are not seasonably adjusted.

Sigh. Per the 9th New Collegiate,* "seasonable" means timely or opportune, "suitable to the season or circumstances." The writer is looking for the adverbial form of "seasonal," whose second definition is "affected or caused by seasonal need or availability," as in "seasonal unemployment."

Have you heard this song before? That's why the industry of journalism evolved an industrial process of editing. Had this one escaped the originating editor** and the rim, slot and proof stages, it still might have been caught by some greisly compositor whose role in life was to remind the college graduates upstairs that the dictionary was in alphabetical order for their convenience, should they want to open it.

Welcome to the New Journalistic Order; the food's awful, but at least the portions are small. Remind me again how we're supposed to win hearts and minds this way?

* The copy I was issued last time I came aboard the desk of a big daily. It still works, which cannot be said of the Apple IIC we had at that point.
** OK, it's the business desk; in the Good Old Days, they might have been busy trying to make space for a picture of the furniture store owned by a friend of the publisher. Now get off the lawn, you kids.

4 Comments:

Blogger John Cowan said...

"It ain't what you don't know that hurts you; it's what you do know that ain't so." --Will Rogers (or possibly Mark Twain or Artemus Ward or even Satchel Paige, but John E. McIntyre goes with Will Rogers, and that's good enough for me)

11:23 AM, August 28, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"... in the Good Old Days, they might have been busy trying to make space for a picture of the furniture store owned by a friend of the publisher."

Good Old Days? That still happens, and now that the public has a better idea of how often it happens, it's a much bigger obstacle to their "hearts and minds" than semantic issues that go straight over most of their heads, and get properly filed as a minor annoyance in most of the rest.

4:26 PM, August 28, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Unlike statewide rates, the rates reported for the city are not seasonably adjusted."

What if the writer meant exactly that: The city rates are not able to be adjusted this season, whereas the statewide rates are able to be adjusted this season.

This differs from "seasonally", i.e. "The rates are adjusted each season."

6:56 PM, August 28, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anony II = Emil says to Anony I Then you say to the reporter, "Is this what you mean, because this is what you've said?" I say it all the time to the high school journalists I edit. Most of the time they are just trying to use their most recent set of vocabulary words. Off the lawn now!

10:27 AM, August 29, 2009  

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