Sunday, April 16, 2006

And another thing ...

Mostly a rehash of recent notes, inspired by the recurrence of certain themes:

Unpaid police block road, seize building
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip -- In the first major sign of discontent with the Hamas-led government, dozens of masked Palestinian policemen blocked a main road in the Gaza Strip on Saturday and briefly seized a government building to protest a delay in paying their salaries.

One of the things we could take away from yesterday's discussion of Near East heds* is that it's easier to maximize hed value if you steer away from copying the lede's subject, verb and object. Here, the hed uses the same subject (note the clever compression of motive into the adj "unpaid," though) and compound predicate -- block road and seize building -- as the lede. As yesterday's correspondent noted, though, this approach leaves out something vital: Which of the 190-odd countries and territories that have police might this have happened in? Try dropping one of the predicates (say, the one reported in the previous day's paper) to squeeze in that angle:

Unpaid police block road in Gaza protest
Police block road to protest Hamas policies

Subject-verb-object is a nice, natural order. But you can often tell a better story if you go beyond the first subject, verb and object of the lede.

Iraqi forces armed illegally?

I don't know. Why don't you try telling me, rather than asking me?

On a hill, not too far, stands 3 new crosses

They does? Even when invert you the verb and subject, agree must they.

He is risen. He is risen indeed.
Those words, from clergy and then from congregations for emphasis, will resonate across the Christian world today as an exclamation point for Easter.

Last week's gentle hint apparently didn't sink in (well, to be fair, neither have repeated hints in that direction over the years). It is not Easter "across the Christian world." It is Easter in the Western Christian world. Lots of newspapers seem capable of telling this story without being deliberately wrong and exclusionary. Why can't this one put some effort into getting this fairly simple point right? Why can't it practice a bit of its own preaching about diversity? (And why can't it figure out that "clergy" isn't a plural noun?)

* Aside from the observation that copy editing is a strikingly difficult job whose practitioners deserve a lot more congratulations than they usually get. Which can hardly be said often enough.


Blogger aparker54 said...

Doesn't "clergy" behave like "faculty" and "staff" in American English? In the AHD ( the reader is directed to the usage discussion of collective nouns.

6:49 PM, April 16, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

Yes, it's a collective, but that doesn't mean it can act like a plural. The examples in the AHD (and other usage guides), be it noted, all come with a modifier of some sort: "My family" or "the enemy" -- not "family were arguing" or "enemy were showing up in twos and threes to surrender."

"The clergy were singing their favorite hymn," no problem. "Clergy were singing their favorite hymn" is flat wrong.

1:33 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger aparker54 said...

If you'll allow "The clergy were singing their favorite hymn," with its plural verb, how can you deny that "clergy" can act like a plural? N.B.: I wouldn't have written that singing-clergy sentence in American English, but I'm liberal. In any case, I fail to see how the presence or absence of a modifier has any bearing on the case.

By the way, fev: When you originally objected to a use of "clergy," it wasn't the subject of a sentence ("Clergy were singing"); the word came after a preposition ("from clergy"; see "without benefit of clergy"). Perhaps "clergy" likes to drop the article in certain prepositional phrases; see how the OED omits the article in the following definition under "clergy":

 "Hence clergy'd ppl. a., provided with clergy."

I really don't know. And anyway, I'm quibbling. That's the fun of it all.

6:23 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

I don't _like_ it, and I'm not sure I agree with the AHD's declaring it standard American usage. But it was the example on the table. (Where my writ runs, it's always singular, but it's so damn hard finding good vassals these days.)

All non-subject uses require the article too:

The pope threw a veiled brickbat at the clergy.

He warned the clergy to stop saying the Lord's Prayer backward.

* Clergy were told that LSD in the communion wafers was no longer appropriate.

See? Can't do objects without the article. Nor is "clergy" plural in "without benefit of clergy," anymore than "jury" is in "trial by jury."

And another thing. _Why aren't you in Cleveland sacrificing small furry animals to the author of the 1928 Guardian stylebook?_

6:52 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger aparker54 said...

I haven't thought through whether "clergy" might be singular or plural in "without benefit of clergy" or in "from clergy." Does it matter? Who can tell? All I suggested in my second post was that the article seems commonly to be omitted in some prepositional phrases. (Note how awkward my refusal to split an infinitive was in the previous sentence.)

I, in Cleveland? Even when I was a pro in the news biz, I was just an amateur.

Btw, I wanted to ask you about a bit of Arabic that's been puzzling a member of CE-L. But no e-mail address that I've seen, not even on hotmail!

9:40 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger aparker54 said...

Singular or plural in sense, of course. Synesis, or something like that.

9:46 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

I suppose I should do something about the e-mail at some point, eh? OK. vulteef [at] missouri [dot] [campus-type suffix], which i check with some regularity even when brushing pterodactyls off the dial-up conection at home.

12:44 AM, April 22, 2006  

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