Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dear Mobile

Should we just get John Prine to sing the "Ask the Editor" blog, or what?

Q. I appear to be the only one who didn't get the message. Are we now calling children kids? – from Mobile, Ala. on Tue, Sep 30, 2014
A. While not a Stylebook term, kids is usually acceptable in news stories, particularly lighter fare, reflecting wide use in society. In some news situations, children as a more formal term may be more appropriate.
Dear Mobile: You are what you are and you ain't what you ain't the only one who didn't get the message. We've been calling children "kids" since the 17th century --"originally low slang, but by the 19th c. frequent in familiar speech," as the OED puts it. If you're at the sort of operation that drops the occasional "moniker" or "eatery" into a story, you have no complaint. And if you've figured out that some words work better in some stories than in others, then you're well on your way to better things as it is.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Stop press!

Yes, Virginia, there is a planet on which the fourth most important story in the history of the world in space is "notes between Clinton, lib activist Alinsky revealed":

Previously unpublished correspondence between Hillary Clinton and the late left-wing organizer Saul Alinsky reveal new details about her relationship with the controversial Chicago activist and shed light on her early ideological development.

Fair 'n' Balanced cousins? Guys? Can I suggest that if you aren't already driven into paroxysms of rage at the mere sight of the secret, yellow and midnight hag, you're going to need more than a little light on her early ideological development to get there. Or maybe not.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Today in news language: Whaddaya, nuts?

Looks like a little confusion on the Language Arts Desk over at New York's Hometown Newspaper. The thug in question speaks "perfect English" on the front; inside,* he has something called a "North American accent," but on Twitter, it's "unaccented English." Given the interest last month in the accent of evil -- "linguistic experts studying the voice on the YouTube clip believed the voice bore a definite British accent, most likely from London," the same reporter wrote -- what could it possibly be?

The story doesn't make things much clearer:

The newest voice of Islamic State terrorism sounds alarmingly like a son of the Midwest.

Alarmingly? What did he do, say "Missouruh" at graduation or something?

A newly released Islamic State propaganda film ends with the gun-toting jihadist speaking in perfect English, raising speculation that he’s a homegrown Muslim militant.

The man with the North American accent then joins in a mass execution.

Which sounds a bit like backtracking -- from Midwestern to "perfect" and then back to, um, "North American." Wonder what that could mean?
Read more »

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Those who don't know cliches ...

... are doomed to write corrections about them:

Frank Bruni’s column on Wednesday incorrectly attributed the dictum that those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. It is from George Santayana, not Edmund Burke.

If it's the phrase "everybody uses" in a particular situation, you should be the writer who doesn't.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Yes and no, but no, and yes. And no.

Q. Hello. How would you write "a drugmaker that makes generic drugs": "generic-drug maker," "generic-drug-maker" or something else? Thanks. – from Tustin, Calif. on Thu, Sep 18, 2014
A. The Stylebook spelling is drugmaker, so the first is correct.
Dear AP: You're at least partly right about something, though not about what the questioner asks or even entirely about what you answer. The question from Tustin appears to be about how to shorten the phrase by preposing "generic drugs," not about whether the longer form is already correct-ish. You could instead be raising consciousness about why "generic-drug maker" is an exception to the Stylebook's spelling of "drugmaker."

What we want to avoid is letting the Stylebook drag us into doing something stupid -- making the drugmaker, rather than the drugs, generic, in the same sort of way careless writers turn women who run small businesses into teeny-tiny businesswomen.You don't want the adjective to modify the compound noun: small businesswoman, generic drugmaker. What you want is a compound modifier, and you're going to link it up just the way Tustin suggested: small-business woman, generic-drug maker. Or you can just use the longer form: A maker of generic drugs, women who run small businesses. And if someone wails that you're not being consistent, you should respond: At least I'm not being dumb.

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Today in the realism-free zone

Behold the National Review in its infinite wisdom:

We can’t delegate our warfighting to jihadists.

Kinda slept through the entire Afghan-Soviet thing, did we? Here's the AP in December 1984, bringing Ronald Reagan into a story about the administration's apparent inability to ensure that enough high-end equipment ended up in remote parts of Afghanistan:

He added, "The Afghan freedom fighters -- the Mujahedeen -- remind us daily that the human spirit is resilient and tenacious, and that liberty is not easily stolen from a people determined to defend it."

Hey, kids: See if you can guess what triliteral root is used to form the noun "mujahed"! In sad news for the National Review, not only can we delegate our warfighting to jihadists, we're pretty good at it.

That's why we have realism, and why (in one of those rare bits of punditry that still merit reading six years later) Stephen Walt referred to the American press as a "realism-free zone." You don't have to still be sticking up for the Melians to be a realist, but you do have to begin by looking at the world as it is, not as your angry friend on the AM dial wants it to be. You don't even have to take sides for or against Reagan's Elmer Fudd approach to the parts of the world with funny alphabets and lots of brown people. (If realism had a T-shirt, it would probably say "It seemed like a good idea at the time" in Latin.) But you should have either the common sense or the common decency to agree that things happened the way they happened, because that's sort of essential if you want to shape how things might happen in the future.

To paraphrase a popular rallying cry from early in our national life: billions for defense, but not one cent for jihad.

Should we just take up a collection and buy the poor clown a copy of "Charlie Wilson's War"? 

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A psychotic weasel, in the nonscientific sense

See if you can guess where Dr.  Krauthammer is going with this one:

HUGH HEWITT, HOST: ... I know you’ve said before you no longer practice psychiatry. You’ve given that up. But I want to tempt you to do a little armchair diagnosis here. On the New York Times front page yesterday, Peter Baker wrote about a series of dinners the President’s been having, and our friend John Hinderaker at Powerline says he sounds whiny. He sounds depressed to me. What do you think is his mental state?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: That’s very funny, because my specialty when I was a psychiatrist was bipolar disease. And I wrote some papers on manic disease. He’s not manic, and I don’t think he’s depressed. And I, you know, look. I’ve foresworn psychiatry simply because you really can’t do it at a distance. And one other thing is that you remember 1964 when about 500 psychiatrist signed a statement that Barry Goldwater was psychically unfit for the presidency?

HH: Well, I’ve read about it. I don’t remember it.

CK: Oh, you’re not young enough. Actually, I probably got it second-hand, for all I know.

I expect that's true. Chuckles was born in 1950, the article that made the matter famous was published in '64, and the last appeal of the resulting lawsuit was rejected in 1969. (The Supreme Court declined to hear it the following January, with Black and Douglas dissenting.)

Short version: Fact magazine, one of Ralph Ginzburg's gifts to the free-speech world, had run a special Goldwater issue -- "The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater" -- the month before the 1964 election, including among other things an ill-concocted "poll" of psychiatrists. Goldwater sued. Ginzburg more or less admitted at trial that several assertions in the issue were, well, you know, kinda-sorta made up despite evidence that contradicted them. So Goldwater remains one of the rare public officials to win a libel case under the Sullivan standard. Anyway, continue:
But that’s a real abuse. Psychiatrists, doctors and others who use their science, or even the global warming folks, you know, you have your expertise, and some people just use it to try to bludgeon other people with their authority. 

Yes. That seems to be kind of what the American Psychiatric Association had in mind a few years later when it banned jackleg pseudo-diagnosis for the media.

Read more »

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Patient Zero

This just in: Researchers may have just nailed down the chain of transmission for "Michelle O's lunch rules," which appears to have reached Planet Fox about 20 minutes ago (as of this writing).

"Michelle O menu" and similar terms have been surfacing on Drudge with some frequency lately, mostly linking to EagNews.org, website of a Michigan-based outfit that appears to base its existence around the excess of gummint in our schools. Well, that and Common Core and the Lady Macbeth of the White House vegetable garden:

Read more »

Friday, September 12, 2014

On the bright side ...

... at least it doesn't say "Buh-bye." There's nothing else to cheer in the return of the Most Favoritest Misbegotten Lede of the downtown fishwraps:

Bye bye pop can.

That’s what the Detroit Fire Department might be saying soon to its rigged-up emergency alert system. It could get replaced — for free — by one of several philanthropic software companies that recently learned just how bad things are in Detroit.

The Freep stylebook doesn't address "bye-bye," but Webster's puts in the hyphen. Last time we set up the "that's what" with a form of direct address, at least we remembered the Donner Party comma:

Sayonara, prison life.

That’s what Monica Conyers can say now that her federal prison sentence for bribery is officially over.

And, alas, "replaced by" has at least one extra meaning too many to work here.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, I really got a lot out of the play. 



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We taught them a lesson in 1918 ...

... and they've hardly bothered us since then! Right, Nation's Newspaper of Record?

An editorial on Sept. 4 about Scotland’s independence vote incorrectly stated that Scotland and England have lived together in peace since 1707. In 1745, several Scottish clans joined Charles Edward Stuart in an uprising to reclaim the British throne, which was ultimately defeated.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Today in anniversaries

The Fair 'n' Balanced Network isn't one to let an anniversary go to waste:

It was exactly two years ago that Islamic militants attacked a U.S. compound in Libya, killing four Americans -- including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens -- and touching off a major political controversy that divides Washington to this day.

... But controversy over what really prompted the attack and what the highest level of the U.S. government did or did not do in the face of it continues to swirl on Capitol Hill. The White House initially portrayed the attack, which came just two months before the 2012 presidential election, as a spontaneous event triggered by Muslim outrage over an obscure online video deemed insulting to Islam.

As long as we're digging into the files, let's see how things looked the next day at the Fox homepage:
As heds go, that seems a lot more definite than the White House response described by the Washington Times on the same date:

Top Obama administration officials said they were still struggling late Wednesday to ascertain a clear timeline of how the events unfolded in Cairo and Benghazi.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Today in journalism history

Just to help put matters into perspective, here's how the Nation's Newspaper of Record covered political violence in the Fractious Near East on this day in 1947.
It's worth noting, among other things, how little is new in the world: the terrorists employ up-to-date communication technology ("a typewritten communique ... saying 'We did it'") and describe their motive: on the eve of "conferences on the future of Palestine," they promise to "'destroy these evil intentions' of Britain toward Palestine."

And this, toward the end of the dispatch:

At the Rafia detention camp twenty of about 800 Jewish detainees were told they had been sentenced administratively to another year of detention. None has been brought to trial. Twenty-nine others were released yesterday.

Is there a particular reason occupying powers think they're going to win hearts and minds by telling prisoners, in effect, that we tossed a coin and you're sticking around another year?

If this really was 1947, I'd read about the presidential address in the World's Greatest Newspaper. At least we still have the Fair 'n' Balanced Network to keep fear at the proper boil.

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And you know two heads are better than one

What do you suppose was No. 4 on the Fox news hit parade in the run-up to Wednesday night's nationally televised round of dithering and kowtowing? Take it away, Dr. Keith Ablow!

Mr. President, I know this consult is uninvited. But, Wednesday you will address the nation about the threat ISIS poses to the world.

You must not let your own psychology interfere with the message you send to our mortal enemies.

Feeling the great disturbance in the Force yet?

I believe you feel ambivalent about the decency of America.  But if you let that ambivalence be known by ISIS, they will be emboldened.

It is natural for a group intent on the destruction of the United States to feel strengthened in their resolve if they intuit that the president of the United States shares any grave misgivings about whether we are a force for good in the world, or evil.

You have voiced such misgivings. You must stop.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Today in journalism history

The Ten Magic Phrases of Journalism -- "limped into port," "flatly denied," "gutted by fire" and the like -- may have been first collated by Michael O'Donoghue, but they weren't pulled out of thin air. On this day in 1966, Phrase 10 appeared in Time magazine:

Roving bands of Negro youths roamed through the Negro section of Dayton—looting, stoning buses and breaking store windows—after a Negro man was fatally wounded by shotgun blasts fired from a passing car containing three white men.

The past isn't history, it isn't even past: Did you know that "preferred usage for those of the Negro race" appeared under "black" in the AP Stylebook as recently as 2002?

Just for the fun of it, here's the cover of the issue in question. Plus ça change.


No. David Crosby, maybe

Or maybe Charles Manson. The Intarwebs may have killed off a lot of journalism traditions (classified advertising and copydesk jobs, to name two), but the deity-on-foodstuffs tradition is alive and well -- right, Royal Oak Patch?

After severe storms, which DTE Energy called one of the 10th worst in its 111-year history, rumbled across Wayne County Friday and abruptly shut down the St. Andre Bessette Church Festival, there was something especially comforting about this food when the celebration resumed on Saturday.

Festival chairman Robert Heller told WXYZ, Channel 7 said a parishioner excitedly told him that Jesus must prefer Polish food to Mexican food, then presented a pierogi – a Polish dumpling – as evidence.

“I was shocked,” said Heller, who was making tacos at the time. “I looked at it, and you can definitely see the face of Jesus.”

Read more »

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Monday, September 08, 2014

The white knight is talking backwards

As the Kenyan usurper is trying to distract us from his usurperly bombing of the Middle East by, um, bombing more of the Middle East, it's good to know that Drudge still has his eye on the main enemy.

The brand of awesomeness on offer at EAGnews.org might be interesting for those who don't spend a lot of time in the wackosphere. But at least it's nice to know that Juan Williams has found a consulting gig.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

What was it smoking?

Well, that certainly took long enough. A story that started out as the Thursday evening lede (that's the second image below) and held the top spot again on Friday (below that) didn't finally become the "smoking gun" until Saturday -- but was apparently still strong enough to rate the No. 2 spot Sunday evening. Must have been some gun:

A U.S. security team in Benghazi was held back from immediately responding to the attack on the American diplomatic mission on orders of the top CIA officer there, three of those involved told Fox News’ Bret Baier.

Their account gives a dramatic new turn to what the Obama administration and its allies would like to dismiss as an “old story” – the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Read more »

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Yes, they really do think like that

What does the No. 4 story at Sunday night's Fair 'n' Balanced homepage have to do with Friday's offlede at the Washington Times? A fairly good bit, as it turns out. They're from the same beat.

Todd Starnes, in case you don't keep up with the doings of the Fox empire, covers the culture wars -- basically, anything the Kenyan usurper is doing to destroy all the things you held dear when you got up in the morning:

One of the great moments in history came when an unsuspecting camper sandwiched a marshmallow and a piece of chocolate between two graham crackers -- creating an American masterpiece -- the s’more.

But now the Obama administration is attempting to modify the third sacrament in camping’s holy trinity.

Uh, do tell!

The U.S. Forest Service wants Americans to make healthier S’mores by replacing the chocolate with fruit, according to a blog post meant to commemorate National Roasted Marshmallow Day (apparently there is such a thing, it was observed on August 30 this year).

Which must be why the NRA has decided to, you know, take it to the streets:

The National Rifle Association has unleashed a multimillion-dollar TV advertising campaign that its longtime leader says is aimed at messaging beyond gun rights and reaching middle-class mothers, minorities and other Americans “who believe our country is off the rails.”

The gun lobby’s campaign, launched in the last 10 days, uncharacteristically delves into issues far beyond the Second Amendment to explore the IRS scandal, media elitism and security vulnerabilities, with a call to return “good guys” to power.

Do you see it all fitting together now?
Read more »

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Word gazpacho at the BBC

It kind of looks and acts like a noun pile, except that so much of it isn't nouns at all. And even though it's less word salad than word gazpacho, it's probably easier to follow than a classic noun pile. Anyway, can you figure out what the BBC is getting at here?

Read more »

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Ground control to Major Tom

For those of you who had been keeping up with the brave Russian sex geckos, there's sad news tonight:

Five gecko lizards sent into orbit on a Russian space satellite as part of a sex experiment have all died, the Russian space agency says.

Did they -- well, you know, return with their shields or upon them, gecko-sex-wise?

... Experts say the geckos may have frozen to death after the heating system broke down, Russian news agencies report.

They were sent into space as part of a study into the effect of weightlessness on their sex lives and development.

... Drosophila fruit flies that were also travelling on the satellite, however, survived and had reproduced, Roscosmos said.

One can only hope they'll be questioned after a decent interval. The Ridger, are there any details in the Russian version that we're missing?

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

You keep using that word

I think we just need to put this one to a poll: What does the hed mean, and where do you live? It might be more fun to answer before you read on, but who knows?

Read more »

Monday, September 01, 2014

Remain calm. All is well!

Is it just me, or should The Fox Nation* spend a little more time in the Great American Film Canon before it puts together some of its its heartwarming illustrations?

And should it be a little more careful in its copy-pasting?

While liberals “leaders” were crowing for the cameras and pretending to pray, St. Louis conservatives were taking some positive steps toward actually helping the Ferguson community torn up by rioting.

The St. Luis Tea Party is organizing a “BUYcott” of businesses along the now-infamous Florissant Avenue where some of the worst looting took place.

One can only hope the Tea Party is there to ask this "St. Luis" for some photo ID before he votes in the next election.

* "Committed to the core principles of tolerance, open debate, civil discourse, and fair and balanced coverage of the news." Srsly!

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