Monday, May 10, 2010

My name's on Friday

This isn't a case of hypercorrection, in that the result isn't a grammatical error, but we ought to have a category for it: errors produced by overinterpreting "style." Hyperformalizing? Hyperstyling? Hyper-Timesing?

Because of an editing error, the On Soccer column on Thursday, about England’s mixed view of the game in the United States, referred incorrectly in some copies to John Harkes, one of the first Americans to play professional soccer in England, and to one of the teams for which he played. He arrived in England in 1990 to play for Sheffield Wednesday; he did not arrive “in England to play at Sheffield on Wednesday.”

Assuming that the original sentence was something like "He arrived to play for Sheffield Wednesday" (which, as ane fule with a search engine can kno, hav all sorts of Web sites*), we don't have the classic stylebook example of time-element ambiguity: "He said Wednesday he would finish the job." There's no difference between "classes start Monday" and "classes start on Monday"** except that the latter -- oh, maybe sounds a bit more Times-ish?

I can't find it in the Times stylebook (better-informed comments are welcome), but it might belong to the category of unwritten rules that Times desks tend to follow -- a disdain for reduced relative clauses, for example -- to help distinguish Times copy from the barbaric yawps on offer at the lesser products.

If that's the case, someone did the writer a disservice for the worst of reasons: following a rule that isn't really there and doesn't really make the difference you want it to. It would have been an easy mistake to head off, and in the course of doing so, you could learn one of those cool bits of annoying trivia that editors love to have in the old toolbag.

We are, after all, the tribe of When In Doubt, Look It Up. And there's a secret footnote to that as well: When not in doubt, look it up anyway. Familiarity breeds correction.

* Know what? I really don't care that the AP has decided on "website."

** St. Custard's hav begun another term.

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Blogger Jan said...

Are you sure the distinction isn't between play FOR Sheffield and play AT Sheffield (rather than Wednesday/on Wednesday)? I don't want to learn any more than I know about soccer, but Mr. Google must have an answer ...

3:37 PM, May 10, 2010  
Blogger fev said...

As Virginia's dad used to say, "If you see it in the Sun, it's so":

Meanwhile, American soccer legend John Harkes insists Celtic have given the MLS scene a massive boost with their three-city tour.

DC United youth development chief Harkes - a former Sheffield Wednesday star - said: "Playing Celtic was brilliant for the club because it brings more exposure for the MLS in Europe.

The Googles will also get you to assorted Wednesday sites. I hadn't heard of 'em before I saw the correction. Just another reminder that no matter how weird something looks to me, it might be perfectly ordinary somewhere else.

3:51 PM, May 10, 2010  
Blogger Jan said...

It's a wonderful name, Sheffield Wednesday, for sowing confusion -- and the correction remains pretty obscure, I think. (Obviously I didn't work at deciphering it -- but should one have to decipher a correction?)

10:57 PM, May 10, 2010  

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