Tuesday, April 09, 2013

When It Pays to Be Pedantic

People write "Illinois senator" when they mean a U.S. senator from Illinois, and I change it, because there are also Illinois senators as in members of the Illinois Senate.

People write "last January" when they mean the last January to have occurred, and I change it, because there's also last January as in January of last year.

People write "Kansas City" when they mean the one in Missouri, and I change it, because there's also the one in Kansas. They write "Fairfax" when they mean giant Fairfax County, Va., and I change it, because there's also tiny Fairfax City, Va., which by a quirk of Virginia law is not part of the county that surrounds it.

I change these things over and over, and every once in a while I wonder why. And it never fails: The minute I'm about to give in, somebody writes "Illinois senator" in reference to a member of the Illinois Senate. Or "last January" in a reference to two Januarys ago. Or "Kansas City" in a reference to Kansas. Or "Fairfax" in a reference to Fairfax City.

And I smile a little smile and wonder what I was thinking and continue being a big, fat pickypants.

I "leave room," a concept I explain further in "Yes, I Could Care Less: How to Be a Language Snob Without Being a Jerk," coming June 18 to a bookstore near you.

5 comments:

The Spectator said...

I'm not hearing the meaning of "last January as in January of last year." If that's what's meant, I would change it to January 2012. This being April, "last January" was just three months back.

Bill said...

Precisely my point. And yet people do it. "No, I mean *laaaaaast* January ..."

Rose - The Center of My Self said...

Accuracy aids in communication. I edit copy from both native and non-native English speakers and several times a day I ask myself "what do they mean?" Thanks for your pickypants-ness.

lsm said...

Born and bred KCKers appreciate the differentiation.

lsm said...

Born and bred KCKers appreciate the differentiation.