Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The land of strange corrections

Why do newspapers correct what they correct? Let's observe and speculate a little:

A review of the "Charlotte Squawks" prouduction* in Sunday's State&Local section gave an incorrect song lyric in a number mocking County Manager Harry Jones. The correct lyric was: "Harry makes the moolah rain."

OK, that's good to know. Glitch on a parody lyric in the yearly roast of local notables and you get a correction in your folder. Flatly misstate a contentious yet straightforward issue of foreign policy ("Obama endorses 1967 borders for Israel," say), and -- three weeks and counting?

But enough about the Fractious Near East. What are we correcting with the correction here: Noun? Verb? Party affiliation? Intonation? Let's see (the tune is "Jolly Holiday" from "Mary Poppins," if that helps):

Oh, it's a money giveaway with Harry;
Harry is the gravy train.
Tell him that your lawsuit will be scary,
Harry makes the mulah rain!

If you think it's nearly unheard-of for newspapers to correct spelling errors, take the square root of that and multiply it by "archaic slang terms with multiple recognized spellings" to get an approximate likelihood of this one.

So what's the point? Did somebody think the spelling as originally given meant -- God forbid -- "mullah" or something? As in Our Kids and Teens will be bowing toward Mecca any day now? Because it's totally going to spoil the joke if "mullah," dating to 1939, is among the OED's variations on "moolah."

Insights on how this correction came about, of course, are welcome.

* I don't want to get into the (sic) habit, but it's a correction, dammit. So (sic).

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