Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Save Your Apostrophes

One meaning of round is "around." So there's no need for apostrophizin' in "round-the-clock service" or "shot heard round the world."

Similarly, till is a word of its own, not a truncation of until. So don't go writin' 'til or 'till.

6 comments:

MuPu said...

Since until is more or less a multilingual, cross-polinated truncation of up till; and since up till is not used much in decent circles; and since the term "till" is being eschewed in favor of until; shouldn't we now allow the long-established until to evolve further -- i.e., to it's logical contracted form ('til) or even, eventually, to the not-yet-ready-for-prime-time til? We've allowed unto to give way to to. How 'bout it?

Also, it might be worth mentioning that a word is often chosen for its cadence, and not necessarily for its ranking in Google hits.

Also, the synonyms (and homynyms) 'round and round are both valid options. 'Round might be preferable if another word in its vicinity has received the same treatment, or when indicating a particular speaking style, like this: "He showed up 'round noon, 'bout the same time I did."

Aaron said...

Hi, Bill. I came across your blog again when researching the idiocy of the phrase "homicide bomber." You had a nice piece here. I would add that using this stupid phrase not only violates something one learns the second day of news writing class—that to call it a "tragic death" or a "tragic accident" is horribly redundant—but it actually leaches the language of news value. What makes these people frightening is that they want to die. It's why September Eleventh worked and why the problem is so pervasive and perplexing that George W. Bush has felt empowered and required to step it up a notch. The word "suicide" in "suicide bombers" is, specifically, what differentiates them and their tactics from those who just pack up a Ryder with fertilizer and walk away. Remove it and you're left with just the egg whites.

Anyway, thank you for your continued work. I'll continue checking this site and I will need to add more Bill Walsh volumes as a companion to the AP Stylebook. Sorry this post is rather irrelevant to this entry, which I found interesting. You don't know how many times I've edited in those single apostrophe marks.

Jim Donahue said...

Until and till are completely interchangeable, though, correct? There's no shade of difference in meaning?

ninge said...

Hi Bill

This is Nina, copy chief at the Arizona Daily Wildcat. I saw your name on our banquet list and thought I'd look you up. Now I think I'll end up coming here every day and hopefully memorizing all your helpful hints!

In reference to your "knockdown" post a while back, we have a lot of issues here with warm up vs. warmup (what athletes wear when they are warming up.) Perhaps it reflects college students' preoccupation with fashion...

I look forward to meeting you next week!

Seán said...

MuPu has cross-pollinated and multi-langued himself cross-eyed and stumble-tongued. "Until" is NOT a truncation of English "up till". It is from the Middle English "until", where the "un" comes from the Norse for "up to" and "til" is the Old English that became modern "till". So ['til] and ['till] are unnecessary and etymologically ignorant. If you aren't writing Old English, it woud make more sense to write [til']. In any case, if "til" ever becomes accepteable, it will be not a case of evolution but of reversion.

Bill Mehlman said...

Not knowing what Aaron is referring to in scorning "tragic accident," I'll leave it alone. But, clearly, "tragic death" makes a useful distinction. When my father died, quickly and without much pain, having, as far as I know, lived a reasonably happy life for 88 years, it was sad, but hardly tragic.

When my son's best friend died at 21, it was tragic, and heart-wrenching.