Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bizarre language assertion of the week

"Just like adjectives," you say? Modifying nouns and everything? At the risk of angering the Miami Herald stylebook,* whose entry under "dialect" warns us not to go around making "a longshoreman sound like a college professor," one is tempted to add: No f***ing s***?

The bigger point for editors on a story like this is the lede:

A Brooklyn, N.Y., man says he is considering a lawsuit after he was thrown off a flight in Detroit for dropping the F-bomb.

... and the ensuing heds: "Cussing man tossed from flight may file suit" in print" and "N.Y, man may sue after being tossed from Detroit flight" online. "May sue" and "is considering a lawsuit" are banned under all circumstances, permanently, forever, amen. The threshold for filing a lawsuit is low as it is, and the threshold for telling a naive member of the press that bygod you're gonna SUE is even lower. It's a lawsuit when it has a number -- as in, when the clerk has whacked it with the stamp -- and not before. The correct answer to "You know, I'm thinking about suing" is "Thanks! Call me back when you do, OK?" Period. /rant.

As long as you're being appropriately skeptical toward kinda-sorta hints about lawsuits, though, you might as well be skeptical toward specious assertions about language. And when some minor-league pop-culture figure plays the New York Awesomeness card -- hey, kid, in the Big Town, we use curse words like adjectives, you know? -- it's perfectly all right to ask: Which fucking turnip truck did you just fall off of?

* And the Grauniad's, which hates asterisks and approves of "fuck" but not "political correctness." Sorry, guys.

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